Round two with Patxi Azpiroz, exec chef of Patxi's Pizza
Biggest moment of euphoria in the kitchen: With each new restaurant, I have that moment of euphoria. It's like opening night of the theater, and really, a bustling kitchen is live theater in a way. Before the opening night, I always have this inkling of uncertainty as to whether the pizza is going to cook correctly. This was actually a huge uncertainty -- more than normal -- in bringing our pizza to Denver because of the altitude. We came out for a week and rented a test kitchen to make sure the dough would hold up and our Denver guests would get the same Patxi's dough our guests were getting in San Francisco. At a new restaurant, it's not until that first pizza of the night comes out of the oven cooked perfectly and you have the chance to taste it [that you] can you feel the euphoria course through your entire body.
Greatest accomplishment as a chef: Having Michael Bauer, the executive food-and-wine editor and restaurant critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, validate the fact that we made great Chicago-style pizza.
What's one thing that people would be surprised to know about you? I think people would be surprised to learn that I'm not a classically trained chef, nor have I attended culinary school. I was actually an English literature major, and I love English poetry, especially Keats. In fact, I originally wanted to be a poet, but I wasn't great at writing down my thoughts. And while I'm still an avid reader, I've always loved cooking and food, and food is such a strong current in literature that I get the best of both worlds.
Last meal before you die: It would have to be something truly decadent. I'd start with a Green Goddess salad and Dungeness crab cakes, then I'd follow it up with an aged ribeye cooked to a perfect medium rare, served with pan-roasted crispy potatoes and creamed spinach. I'd wash it all down with a Pliny the Younger, a great IPA from the Russian River Brewing Company.
If you hadn't become a chef, what would you be doing right now? I think I'd probably be a carpenter, cabinetmaker or furniture maker of some sort. I like the idea of working with raw materials and creating something aesthetically pleasing and useful.