San Francisco Food Photographer | Chef Tony Gemignani of Tony’s Pizza

Neely Wang San Francisco Food Photographer

This past month, I had the pleasure of photographing the July event hosted by Fresh Starts Chef Events, a project to support Homeward Bound of Marin, a homeless shelter in Marin County, California, providing food, shelter and job training for those in need. This month’s Marin County Cooking Class event featured 11-Time World Pizza Champion Chef Tony Gemignani, owner of ten restaurants, including Tony’s of North Beach, Pizza Rock and Capo’s, and author of The Pizza Bible. He is also the master instructor at the International School of Pizza, a two-time Food Network gold medalist, and a reality television personality. 

Neely Wang San Francisco Food Photographer

Chef Gemignani was also named U.S. Ambassador of Neapolitan Pizza by the city of Naples, a prestigious title given to only three people in the world, and he was inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records for creating the largest pizza and for setting the record for the most consecutive rolls across the shoulder. Although we didn’t get to witness him rolling the pizza dough along the back of his shoulders, Chef Gemignani did wow us multiple times with his pizza tossing skills, even spinning one over my head! He added that dough tossing is often practiced using rubber dough or two beach towels cut into circles and sewn together.

Neely Wang San Francisco Food Photographer

Throughout his childhood, Chef Gemignani spent much of his time cooking with and learning from his mother, who would rely on fruits and vegetables from their backyard. It’s always nice to hear when a chef says there’s “not a better cook than my mom.” He started working at his brother’s pizza restaurant, Pyzano’s in Castro Valley, before he began his own venture into pizza-making. What makes him so unique is that he’s an expert in multiple regional styles — Neapolitan, Sicilian, Roman, New York, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis—as well as the types of flours and starters to make them. His restaurant, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco, houses seven different ovens to accommodate all his different styles of pizza. 

Neely Wang Bay Area Food Photographer

Gemignani’s mantra in pizza-making is, “It’s all about the dough.” And boy, was that dough good! I’m not a crust person and usually leave my plate filled with half-eaten crusts, but this crust was truly delicious! Gemignani’s famous dough contains high gluten, high protein flour plus a browning agent, like sugar, molasses or honey. However, it wasn’t easy coming up with the perfect dough for his pizzas. He shared a story about how the sidewalk in front of his first restaurant teemed with pigeons trying to get to the garbage cans filled to the brim with dough.

Neely Wang Food Photographer

The menu for the evening began with a delicious caesar wedge salad, followed by three of Gemignani’s signature pizzas.

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

Aren’t these rows of grilled lettuce pretty?

Neely Wang Food Photographer

The first pizza served was Chef Gemignani’s New Yorker Pizza, a delicious new york pizza made with ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, pepperoni, sweet fennel sausage, calabrese honey sausage and lots of garlic — yum!

Neely Wang Food Photographer

Neely Wang Food Photographer

While Chef Gemignani was instructing guests in the front of the house, one of Gemignani’s pizza-makers was twirling up a storm back in the kitchen!  

Neely Wang Food Photographer

Usually when chefs come to these events, the students do the majority of the cooking, but tossing dough is not a task that can be learned on the spot and is much trickier than it looks!

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

This New Yorker Pizza was drizzled with olive oil and then topped with pepperoni and two types of sausage. Plus, see those big garlic pieces?

Neely Wang Food Photographer

And look at this knife! Now that’s a pizza cutter!

Neely Wang Food Photographer

Chef Gemignani adds the final touches of dolloped ricotta onto his pizza.

Neely Wang Food Photographer

I wish my slice was a bit bigger.

Neely Wang Food Photographer

The next pizza was his Sicilian Purple Potato and Pancetta. In the restaurant’s 900 degree oven, this pizza can be baked in only 9 seconds.

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

Although the crust looks almost like a focaccia bread, the crust was so light because it gets punched down 3 times, resulting in more time for the yeast in the dough to eat the sugar. The longer the yeast feeds on the sugar, the lighter the dough.

Neely Wang Food Photographer

Here it is before it’s baked and then after.

Neely Wang Food Photographer

See all the holes? These holes keep the crust nice and light.

Neely Wang Food Photographer

This delectable pizza was topped with thinly sliced purple potatoes, smoked pancetta, mozzarella cheese, feta, rosemary and finished with a drizzle of basil pesto. So good!

Neely Wang San Francisco Food Photographer

The back of the house was where all the pizzas were made. Everything had to be timed just right.

Neely Wang Food Photographer

Chef Gemagnani shared some great tips throughout the evening including the type of counter surface that the dough should be stretched on, like granite and marble which keeps the dough cold for stretching, instead of wood. And he also shared that the more water you add to the dough, the crispier the pizza. He suggested using two pizza stones — one to bake the pizza on and another to finish the browning of the crust. If you don’t have a pizza stone, you can put the pizza on an upside-down backing sheet, or even better, a baking steel. I found this interesting article online about baking steels and the benefit of using two stones that explains things very clearly.

Neely Wang Food Photographer

Neely Wang Food Photographer

After the pizza is baked, it’s drizzled with a fresh, vibrant green pesto sauce — really such a pretty pizza. 

Neely Wang Food Photographer

The final pizza of the evening was Chef Gemignani’s Cal Italia Pizza, which won the gold medal for best pizza on the Food Network. This pizza is special because the contestants were not allowed to use any of the top 10 pizza ingredients.

Neely Wang Food Photographer

This sweet and savory pizza was made with asiago, mozzarella and gorgonzola cheeses, proscuitto, balsamic vinegar and a base of fig jam. Love that combo of the sweet jam with the salty proscuitto and cheeses.

Neely Wang Food Photographer

The dessert for the evening was a house made panna cotta — a perfect way to end a delicious meal!

Neely Wang San Francisco Food Photographer

Come back next month for the event, “Celebrate West Sonoma” with Ziggy the Wine Gal and the chefs from Forestville’s Backyard restaurant, Chefs Daniel Kedan and Marianna Gardenhire. In the meantime, try Chef Gemignani’s Cal Italia Pizza!

Cal Italia Pizza

Makes one 13-inch pizza

Ingredients:
370 grams (13-ounce ball) pizza dough
3 parts flour mixed with 1 part semolina, for dusting
55-gram (2 ounce) piece of Asiago cheese, cold for shaving
170 grams (6 ounces) whole-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups)
45 grams (1 1/2 ounces) Gorgonzola cheese, broken into small pieces
40-60 grams (2 to 3 tablespoons) fig jam, preferably Dalmatia brand
85 grams (3 ounces) thinly sliced prosciutto (about 6 slices)
Balsamic glaze (recipe below)

Directions:
1. Move the dough to the peel. As you work, shake the peel forward and backward to ensure the dough isn’t sticking.
2. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the Asiago over the surface of the dough, leaving a 3/4 inch border. Mound the mozzarella in the center of the pizza and use your fingertips to spread it out evenly over the Asiago.
3. Slide the pizza onto the top stone. Bake for 7 minutes.
4. Lift the pizza onto the peel and distribute the Gorgonzola pieces evenly over the top.
5. Rotate the pizza 180 degrees, transfer it to the bottom stone, and bake for 3-4 minutes, until the bottom is browned and crisp and the top is golden brown.
6. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board and cut into 6 wedges. Spoon small dollops of fig jam (about 1/4 teaspoon each) around the pizza. Tear the prosciutto slices lengthwise into 2-3 strips and drape the pieces over the pizza slices. To finish, squeeze a thin spiral of balsamic glaze onto the pizza.

Balsamic Glaze

To make 1/4 cup or 95 grams of balsamic glaze, you will need 1 cup of balsamic vinegar.

Directions:
1. Put the vinegar into a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Once steam rises from the surface, reduce the heat to the lowest setting to keep the vinegar below a simmer. No bubbles should break through the surface. If the lowest setting is still too hot, place the pan over a diffuser.
2. Once the vinegar has reduced by three-fourths, remove it from the heat.

Note: The glaze can be stored in a covered container at room temperature for several months.

Holding on to Summer

Neely Wang Photography

In less than a week, my kids go back to school. Although it stays warm here for another couple of months, going back to school signals something in my brain and tells it summer is officially over. No more lazy days, bike rides, long walks, ice cream…none of it. It’s done. Back to early mornings, packing lunches, and endless driving of kids here and there. I know it doesn’t have to be this way, but I just can’t help get a wee bit depressed.

Neely Wang Photography

But the other day, the kids and I were about to go on evening walk when I noticed the sun…or was it the moon? I couldn’t quite figure it out at first (it turned out to be the sun behind a layer of fog), and after trying to take a horrible picture of it with my iPhone, I ran inside and grabbed my camera.

Neely Wang Photography

I hardly take my big-girl camera anywhere now just for fun. I use it for work, but it just seems so cumbersome to take it on a simple walk. But that evening, I kept it with me as we went on our hike and suddenly remembered how fun it was to take pictures with it! I still love the convenience of the camera on my phone (even though it now has two permanent scratches on the lens), but there are some things my d-SLR just does so much better, including depth of field, low light and mood.

Neely Wang Photography

Taking these pictures made me realize how precious summer is, and although it’s terribly dry and brown here in California, there’s so much beauty that’s only around this time of year. I simply don’t want to forget these lazy days of summer.

Neely Wang Photography

Although we didn’t take any extravagant trips or do anything particularly remarkable this summer, I definitely could use a few more weeks of this…

Neely Wang Photography

Neely Wang Photography

Neely Wang Photography

Neely Wang Photography

Neely Wang Photography

Cheers to the last days of summer.

http://pulse.seattlechildrens.org/alternative-to-steroids-and-medication-novel-diet-helps-teen-overcome-crohns/

Sonoma Food Photographer | Zazu Kitchen & Marina Meats

Zazu Kitchen | Neely Wang Photography

First of all, I want to ask, “How is it almost the end of July already?!?” Time has passed so quickly these past few months with the kids being off from school and a slew of exciting new photography work. I realize I haven’t been showing much attention to my little blog lately. I’m glad to be back to share with you a new cooking class, this one being one of my favorites! This past month, I had the pleasure of photographing the June event hosted by Fresh Starts Chef Events, a project to support Homeward Bound of Marin, a homeless shelter in Marin County, California, providing food, shelter and job training for those in need. This month’s Marin County Cooking Class event featured John Stewart and Duskie Estes of Zazu Kitchen + Farm in Sebastapol, California, and Dave the Butcher of Marina Meats in San Francisco at an event to “Celebrate the Pig.”

Neely Wang Sonoma Food Photographer

Now this post is not for the squeamish as it involves lots of raw meat and cutting of things. But I’m Chinese and growing up walking around Chinatown with my mom and seeing whole barbecued ducks hanging from their necks and a plethora of odd sea creatures swimming in tanks was quite commonplace, so a little raw meat doesn’t bother me. And after seeing a butcher prepare a turtle for turtle soup by chopping off its shell with a cleaver, not much has phased me since then. I do feel that butchery is very much a craft, and as a painter has different brushes for different purposes, butchers have different knives and tools that are designed for their work. Look at at that holster full of knives!

Neely Wang San Francisco Food Photographer

John Stewart and Duskie Estes are the couple behind the Sonoma County Restaurant, Zazu Kitchen + Farm, an authentic farm-to-table restaurant that uses everything from the tail to the snout. They are also owners of Black Pig Meat Co., where heritage pigs are raised and everything bacon is sold. Their delicious bacon is dry cured with brown sugar for approximately 21 days and then smoked with applewood for about 12 hours. In 2011, Stewart and Estes were crowned the King and Queen of Porc at the Grand Cochon cooking contest, although Chef Estes claims to have been a vegetarian for 23 years. 

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

Dave the Butcher is the owner of Marina Meats, a butcher shop in the Marina district of San Francisco, which provides cuts of the world’s best producers of organic, all-natural, grass feed meat. He and his associate, Darren King, butchered half a pig provided by Biagio Artisan Meats, and used its parts for the chefs’ demonstrations for the evening. Part of me wishes I wasn’t taken pictures that night, so that I could write down everything they were saying — so much to learn about the different cuts of the animal as well as their uses and how to best cook them. 

Neely Wang San Francisco Food Photographer

Both the chefs and butchers emphasized the great taste imparted from slow-cooking “lesser” cuts of meat, like the shoulders, shanks, and legs, which makes the meat very tender and flavorful.

Neely Wang San Francisco Food Photographer

They also stressed the importance of knowing and asking where your food is coming from and how it is produced, as well as the need to avoid factory farming as much as possible. The pork they used for the demonstration was so fresh and free of antibiotics that Dave the Butcher even took a bite of the raw meat to demonstrate how different pork raised on a farm is compared to factory-raised pork. You could never do that with the pork you get at your local grocery store!

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

The dinner began with a Hot Smoked Bacon “BLT” Salad filled with tomatoes, avocado, little gem lettuce, bacon and drizzled with a sherry vinaigrette.

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

Chef Stewart explained that the star of the salad was actually a “creative accident,” the result of the smoker being set at a temperature too high for bacon. I have to say that this might have been some of the best bacon I’ve ever tasted! It was a cross between bacon and pork belly that was both sweet and savory — so good! Here is Chef Stewart seasoning the pork belly.

Neely Wang Sonoma Food Photographer

Neely Wang Sonoma Food Photographer

Rows and rows of bacon…

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

The main dish of the evening was Kimchi Jigae, a korean-style pork stew with kimchi. Having lots of Korean friends and having eaten at many Korean restaurants, I would say this is more of a creative take on kimchi jagae rather than a traditional version, but still delicious nonetheless! And who would have guessed there could be a Korean version of wine country farm-to-table cooking?

Neely Wang Sonoma Food Photographer

The pork is slow cooked for approximately 3 hours and is infused with a mix of ginger, garlic, shoaxing wine, Korean chili paste, and soy sauce. The savory pork paired very well with the crunchy sour kimchi (again more of a rendition of traditional kimchi), and as most Koreans say, kimchi goes with everything!

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

Neely Wang Sonoma Food Photographer

The final course of the evening was a delectable S’more in a Jar, made with red wine, sugar, chocolate, egg yolks, milk, cream and butter, and then topped with a decadent meringue. A crispy espresso shortbread cookie accompanied the little jars of heaven.

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

I must have eaten my cookie too soon because I forgot to take a picture of it!

Neely Wang Sonoma Food Photographer

Chef Estes adds in the red wine to the chocolate and mixes together the cream, chocolate and butter.

Neely Wang Sonoma Food Photographer

And finally torches each meringue.

Neely Wang Sonoma Food Photographer

As if we didn’t have enough pork for the night, I couldn’t leave without purchasing some Chicharrone Peanut Butter Cups (peanut butter cups with fried pork rinds mixed in it) and Bacon Caramel Popcorn — just a little treat for the road, which you can also buy at their shop, Black Pig Meat Co. The leftover pork cuts were auctioned off and given to guests to take home.

Neely Wang Marin Food Photographer

It was such a fun and delicious evening! So much to learn… and eat! I’m always stuffed at these events. Come back next month for Chef Tony Gemignami, World Pizza Cup Champion and owner of Tony’s of North Beach.

In the meantime, enjoy Zazu Restaurant’s recipe for Kimchi Jigae.

Kimchi Jigae – Korean-Style Pork Stew with Kimchi

Serves 10

Ingredients:
1 pork shoulder, approx. 8 lbs.
4 red onions, peeled and sliced
2 cups kimchi, cut in wide chiffonade, plus its liquid
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 quart water
1 cup shoaxing wine (or mirin)
2 tablespoons gochujang (korean chili paste)
2 tablespoons dengjang (or white miso)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
silken tofu (optional)

1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish
1 bunch cilantro, cut in chiffonade, for garnish
1 bunch radishes, sliced, for garnish
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Season the pork with salt and pepper.
2. Sear until browned, about 5 minutes per side.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients and cover. Roast in a 350F oven until fork-tender, about 3 hours.
4. Serve with aromatic rice (cooked with a sachet of kaffir lime leaf, star anise and coriander seed) and top with garnish.