Chris Bianco talks about life, love and pizza

Do you have any secret sauce tips you can share?

Sure. I have the secret tips for sauces…but there are definitely no secrets. That’s the thing. You start with good things and try not to mess them up. Look at it this way – cooking is a lot like Jenga. Sometimes the most important ingredient is what you’re leaving out. Maybe think back to what you think something needs. Does a pizza need red sauce or green sauce or any sauce? Does he need it?

If you have roasted broccoli, sausage, and garlic, maybe you need a little lemon. You think of cheese, or maybe even omit cheese. That’s really the secret of pizza – understanding what it needs more than what you want to give it.

What I mean by that is who are you cooking it for? Is this for you? Is it for an audience? Is it for a five year old? You marry opportunity with experience with opportunity. In this way, cooking is like architecture. The best architecture or the best cuisine comes from people who have the ability to do something for the recipient. You have certain needs in your home. You have certain needs at the table. Someone who does something for you is their ability to give you what you need. It’s pretty cool.

As for making a red sauce, I don’t make the sauce for a margherita, for example. We use organic whole peeled tomatoes, our own brand. We crush them by hand. We add a little extra virgin olive oil, a little bruise of fresh basil leaves and maybe some salt. Our tomatoes contain a little sea salt – maybe a twist of black pepper, and that’s it. Let sit for maybe 30 minutes before using, so the basil and olive oil have a chance to activate the tomatoes that were already balanced and delicious. Then it will continue to reduce or bake on the pizza itself.

What are some of the biggest mistakes home cooks make when making pizza?

Being too critical of yourself. You learn things when you burn things. If you fail five times in a row, don’t give up because you will learn something from that failure.

Often… 800 degrees may not be the temperature, even though someone said the best pizza bakes at 800 degrees, or you cook it for just 90 seconds. It may be fine, but not for you. This may not be what you want. New York pizza? Well, that would be a lower temperature. It could be 650.

The first thing you want to do when you want to make pizza is figure out what pizza you want to make. There are little nuances to each, whether it’s flour variety, hydration, yeast, saltiness, fats, acids, or whatever, and you want to put it all into context.

If you’re cooking from a memory and have a certain idea in your mind – what a good pizza tastes like – you’re reverse-engineering from that point. It’s giving you the freedom to do whatever you want. I’m like, “If you want it, or if it makes sense to you, who am I to judge?”

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