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Menu Talk with Pat and Bret

Francisco Migoya, coauthor of Modernist Pizza, shares the myths, legends and styles of the world’s most popular flatbread

The pastry chef traces the food’s Neapolitan origins


Sourdough starter doesn’t necessarily improve with age. In fact, the starter changes all the time, anyway, depending on the air around it and the flour that you feed it, according to Francisco Migoya, the head chef of Modernist Cuisine and coauthor of Modernist Bread and Modernist Pizza.

“Whatever that sourdough starter was 100 years ago, there’s nothing remotely even the same in the present one,” he said.

Originally from Mexico City, Migoya studied gastronomy at the Lycée d’Hôtellerie et de Tourisme in Strasbourg, France, and then moved to the United States, where he went on to work as pastry chef in some of the country’s great restaurants, including being executive pastry chef of The French Laundry and Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, Calif. He also was an instructor at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., before joining Modernist Cuisine, Nathan Myhrvold’s research firm that had already produced the epic tome on the latest cooking techniques, which has the same name as the company. Migoya co-authored subsequent books, including Modernist Pizza, which was released on Oct. 5.

It turns out there’s a lot to know about pizza; the book is three volumes long and traces the foods history, from its relatively recent origins in Naples, Italy, in the late 19th Century, to the cholera epidemic that drove Neapolitans across the seas, bringing their culinary customs with them.

Migoya says the United States has the widest variety of pizza types in the world.

“It’s a very interesting phenomenon to see what we’ve done here with the simple combination of dough, sauce and cheese,” he said.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] 

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

TAGS: Food & Drink
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