Interview with Rodger Bowser, Deli Chef & Managing Partner

We are using California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the Deli Kitchen and we think that you really can taste the difference!

How do you use California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil in your cooking at Zingerman’s

We use California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil in ALL our production cooking. From a flash in the pan, grilling our iconic sandwiches, to fresh pasta and greens salads. It is our house oil and we are proud to use it. The flavor and versatility mean everything in an olive oil for us.

What do you like about California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

We like that we can buy in bulk direct from the source. Having a domestic, flavorful source for our olive oil needs is in line with our sustainability and zero waste goals. We use less of everything: packaging (we even reuse the barrels for rain barrels for staff), freight is less, so is human labor to move it around our campus. And like before, we love the taste for our needs.

What’s your best piece of advice for home cooks?

In regards to olive oil, I recommend trying a lot of different kinds and finding out which ones your taste buds like for what dishes you are making. There are a lot of great oils out there that can make a dish great just with the oil you use. One example would be just try making a pasta dish with just really great tasting olive oil and parmesan cheese. You will find yourself eating the whole bowl. It’s because the olive oil is a flavor component and not just an ingredient to make sure the pasta doesn’t stick. But I also recommend, if you use a lot, having a bulk staple oil that you use more than most. I have a 3L dispenser at my house and we need to fill it every three months or so.

How do you come up with ideas for new dishes?

Books are the most inspirational to me. Traditional recipes are the best. Finding out what traditional ingredients were meant for in the first place then adapting them to Deli production or eating at home. Most “new” dishes come to me by way of a new ingredient that inspires me. Usually a certain spice, vegetable or maybe a cured piece of meat, or cheese. I find out where it comes from, what folks did with it in the past, then start cooking!

What do you like to cook at home?

Home and the Deli get a little blurred sometimes. Most recipe development for me happens at the Deli, then at home I cook a lot with pasta, cheese, eggs and fresh vegetables.

Do you follow recipes, or wing it?

I wing it. Unless it is baking or pastry related. Those two you cannot cowboy at all and will usually end up in failure you do. But for most recipes I reference tradition and then start cooking. If I am planning on teaching the new dish to someone I write everything down so I can teach the recipe I just “winged”.