The Food Column: Loving his second career, Randy Tozzi is named Chef of the Year

A career-changer who worked in sales until 40, Randy Tozzi was named Chef of the Year Sunday by the Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Culinary Federation.

Mr. Tozzi, a Pittsburgh-area native, is a district manager overseeing the prepared foods departments of 27 Giant Eagle stores. A 2004 graduate of the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute, Downtown, he worked at Atria's Restaurants and the Duquesne Club before joining the grocery chain.

Six years later, he holds an administrative post that doesn't allow him to do as much cooking as he'd like, although he still cooks occasionally on KDKA and WQED television shows and at his home in Carnegie. He especially enjoys preparing Italian and Irish dishes. Mr. Tozzi graduated from Upper St. Clair High School and California University of Pennsylvania.

He was one of two chefs nominated for this year's Chef of the Year award; the other was Byron Bardy, who through his food service consulting company has served several local, high-end restaurants. Both chefs were nominated by fellow members of the American Culinary Federation's Pittsburgh chapter, and the winner was selected through a membership ballot.

Mr. Tozzi says it's wonderful to wake up in the morning looking forward to going to work at his second career. When he went back to school for his culinary degree, he expected he'd become a caterer or a more modest sort of chef; he didn't have "grandiose plans.".

Thus, he was "very surprised" to win a competition judged by his peers.

At the same banquet, Rob Coppock, a student at Bidwell Training Center, North Side, was named student culinarian of the year, and Shawn Culp, an instructor in the Art Institute of Pittsburgh's culinary program, was named educator of the year.

Hyangi-Mi Frost, a Duquesne Club chef, received the Nicholas Colletti Professionalism Award.


April 1: Ukrainian Easter Egg Sale: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at St. Peter and St. Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Carnegie.

More than 1,200 pysanky (Easter eggs), handcrafted cultural items from Ukraine and Eastern Europe, basket raffles, Ukrainian food and church tours. 412-527-5359 or 412-276-0342.

And the Easter bake sales are gearing up. Through March 28, you can order homemade paska breads and other goodies to be picked up at the April 6 sale at St. John's Orthodox Church in Ambridge.

Pierogies -- stuffed with potatoes and cheese or with sauerkraut -- are $7 per dozen. Dumpling halushky (dumplings and fried cabbage) is $7 per quart. Medium (20 ounces).

Plain paska is $6.50 or two for $11; paska with raisins is $7.75 or two for $13.50; pumpkin, nut, poppyseed and apricot rolls for $12 each.

Cookies, including nut horns, apricot horns, nut tassies and Rusyn apricot torts, are $7 a dozen or get a holiday assorted cookie tray of four dozen for $25. Call 412-749-0675.


Sunday: Rebecca Gilbert of hosts a get-to-know-your-fruits-and-veggies lesson for kids, 11 a.m. at Pittsburgh Public Market, Strip. Free and no registration necessary.

March 29: Easy Pasta from Scratch, 6:30 p.m. at Whole Foods, East Liberty. Free, but reserve a spot: 412-441-7960 ext. 215 or e-mail

March 31: Easter Sweets with Pastry Chef James Wroblewski, 1 p.m. at Habitat in the Fairmont Hotel, Downtown. $65 includes materials, apron and lunch. Reserve at 412-773-8848.

April 14: Learn to grow shiitake mushrooms from 1 to 4 p.m. at Chatham University, Richland. $15 or $10 for members of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture. 412-365-2985.

Allergen-free pizza crust

Mandy's Pizza, which has locations in West View and the North Side, has teamed up with DeIorio's, a Utica, N.Y., bread and dough manufacturer, to create a commercially available, allergen-free pizza crust.

Mandy's restaurants have made homemade allergen-free pizza for about three years, ever since the owners' son was diagnosed with food allergies. But now their crusts are available to other restaurants and home cooks.

The crusts are free of gluten, wheat, egg, soy, corn, casein and nuts. They're available for grocery shelves under the Mandy's Pizza label and for restaurants under DeIorio's Tasti-Grain label.

The new crusts debuted last week at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas.

Expats miss Da 'Burgh

Last week I asked folks who have moved away from Pittsburgh to tell me which foods they miss most. Between direct e-mails and Facebook posts, I received more than 200 responses. So if you're wondering which food topped the list, you'll have to hold your horses. It could take a couple weeks for me to tabulate all those responses and tell you the whole story. (If you haven't written in yet, feel free to email me -- it's not too late.)

Dip some chips

Raise a Dorito in celebration: Tomorrow is National Chip and Dip Day. (National Potato Chip Day was March 14.)

I could stand to eat fewer Doritos, so I opted for a chip of a different color: Kale Chips.

By the way, I recognize this means I have run kale recipes in this column two weeks in a row. I promise next week I'll lay off the kale.

Roasted Kale Chips with Parmigiano-Reggiano

PG tested

Be forewarned: These stink up the house and generally appear to make children gag in horror. Adults, on the other hand, might like them. I did.

-- Rebecca Sodergren

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Trim tough stems from kale and discard; cut large leaves into 2-inch pieces (leave any small leaves whole).

Place in a large bowl, drizzle with oil and toss. Add chili power and salt and toss again. Arrange kale on baking sheets in single layer.

Bake until crispy and the edges just begin to brown, about 12 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheets.

Transfer to a bowl and toss with Parmigiano-Reggiano.


Rebecca Sodergren: .


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