2010 May: Five Questions

Jeff Moogk is the executive corporate chef for Sammy’s Woodfi red Pizza. While menu development at Sammy’s is just one of his duties, Moogk also oversees culinary operations at parent company Ladeki Restaurant Group’s fine dining and catering divisions.

Q. Your position doesn’t just cover the average pizzeria operations. How do you incorporate that experience into Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza?

A. We’re always on the move. In fine dining or pizzeria operations, the basics — as far as using ingredients and toppings — are the same. We’re always trying to innovate. (With catering,) the volume is a lot larger, but the means behind the concept remains the same, and that is to put out the best possible product that you can and please as many people as you can.

Q. This isn’t just your average pizzeria. You offer some non-traditional menu items such as a Kobe beef chili dish and a white tuna and spinach salad. How well do those work in a pizzeria atmosphere?

A. They’re received very well. We always try to move forward, innovate new items and put new items on the menu to keep our regular customers interested and wanting to come back. And, those first timers will always have a large variety to choose from.

Q. Is it difficult for Sammy’s to compete in markets that are know for culinary diversity and excellence, such as Las Vegas?

A. We do quite well in Las Vegas. We’ve won many awards as far as (having) the best salad in town voted by all of the residents, the best pizza in town, even though we’re not on the strip. We’re in the outlying markets.

Q. You’ve added a line of Neapolitan pizzas to your menu. How well are they selling?

A. Those are doing great! It’s a traditional style with basic ingredients, all fresh ingredients, and they’re selling well.

Q. As the company grows, how difficult is it to maintain consistency across the brand?

A. Before we roll any new item out on the menu, or before we open up a new restaurant, we have an extensive training (process) and guidelines in quality control to really, really keep the consistency where it needs to be. That’s the biggest challenge of any multi-unit restaurant. That’s something that we face every day. We try to keep the focus on it every day.