Jordan Wallace, chef of Pizzeria Locale, on the "atrocious" calzone
This is part one of my interview with Jordan Wallace, chef of Pizzeria Locale; part two of our chat will run tomorrow.
There are two breeds of chef: those who know from day one that cooking is in the cards, and those who have to shuffle the deck a few times before realizing that they could be an ace in the kitchen. Jordan Wallace, executive chef and head pizzaiolo at Pizzeria Locale, falls into the latter category.
Born in Chicago, Wallace, whose nickname is "Bruiser," grew up as an athlete; his family moved to Evergreen when he was five, and he started hitting the slopes soon after. "I was a big-time skier," recalls Wallace, but after blowing his knee out more than once, he wasn't so sure that bumps and powder were the secret to a sustainable career. And when the manager of the Chart House, where Wallace was cooking as a way to pay for his skiing habit, announced that he'd procured a degree in restaurant and resort management from Colorado State University, Wallace relinquished his love affair with black diamonds and followed in his manager's footsteps, graduating from CSU with the same degree.
While he was a student in Fort Collins, he cooked at an Olive Garden, and while there are plenty of food snobs who couldn't fathom even stepping a toe into an Olive Garden, Wallace, who spent three years with the company, valued the experience, even if he admits he wouldn't eat there now. "I loved the fast pace of working there; it was a lot of fun, and I took a lot of pride in doing things right and as fast as possible," recalls Wallace, who then went on to culinary school, sojourning to Italy for a seven-month program at the Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners, in the heart of the Piedmont region. "By the time I'd left the Olive Garden, I knew I wanted to cook -- I was good at it, I was in my element, and everything just clicked for me -- and the program in Italy sounded like an amazing opportunity," says Wallace.
And he was right. "I still had very limited knowledge about food when I got to Italy, but by the time I came back to the States, I'd done a five-month stage at a great restaurant, I'd visited cheese makers and Italian plum-tomato manufacturers and coffee companies, and I just loved the food and exploring the different sceneries and cultures," he remembers.
His experience paid off in spades. Soon after returning to Colorado, Wallace snapped up an a.m. prep-cook position at Frasca Food and Wine just a few months after the restaurant opened. And for the past nine years, he's remained with Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan MacKinnon-Patterson, the creators of Frasca and Pizzeria Locale, which also got its start in Boulder. "I never intended to stay with one restaurant group for nine years, but I worked my way through every station at Frasca. My goal was to be a sous-chef, and in three years, I was," says Wallace.
He contemplated leaving Frasca's kitchen once he'd mastered his mission, but when Stuckey and MacKinnon-Patterson offered him the opportunity to journey back to Italy to study pizza -- all expenses paid -- he jumped at the invitation, training at Pizzeria la Notizia, a Naples restaurant that offered pizza-making classes. "It was all a precursor to opening Pizzeria Locale in Boulder," says Wallace, who also did a few pizza stages in Phoenix and Tampa before opening the first Pizzeria Locale in 2011.