Roger Pigozzi is the corporate chef and assistant director of dining for UCLA Housing and Hospitality Services. Since 2002, not only has he fed tens of thousands of hungry Bruins, but he has played a key role in many innovations, including overseeing recipe and menu development at Feast at Rieber, one of the only university residential restaurants in the nation to specialize completely in Pan-Asian cuisine.

An alumnus of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Pigozzi previously served as executive chef at L.A.’s Regal Biltmore — now the Millennium Biltmore — as well as vice president of the ONami restaurant group and breakfast chef at the Doral Country Club, a luxury resort in Miami.

Pigozzi was featured in the following Q&A in the Science and Food blog supported by the UCLA Division of Life Sciences and Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology and written by a blog team that describes itself as “a fun group of scientists and engineers who share a fascination with the science hidden in our food.

What hooked you on cooking?
I think it was growing up in a home where my grandparents lived upstairs. My grandmother and mother were both very good cooks, but I really believe my grandmother was a better cook. She made everything from scratch including pasta, soup, baked bread, and always one special loaf for me baked in a coffee can. My mother was a better baker. She baked a chewy hazelnut meringue and whipped cream cake that was unforgettable. When I was still very young my parents owned a tavern known for its home-style cooking. Food was always a very important part of our family, and for as long as my parents could remember, I said I wanted to be a chef.

The coolest example of science in your food?
At Christmas time when we make gingerbread cookies and add the baking soda to the hot corn syrup I still get a kick out of watching it blow up.

The food you find most fascinating?
It’s the tomato; when you cut it open you see mother nature’s natural gelatin which is more stable and tastier than any gelatin we make. We can eat them raw, roasted, or even oven dried, which transforms even a mediocre tomato into an amazing full flavored tomato.

What scientific concept — food related or otherwise — do you find most fascinating?
The essence of food ... the process of dehydration and caramelization. whether it’s the part of the roast that sticks to the bottom of the pan; a wine reduction; the oven-dried tomatoes that I just mentioned; or oven dried ketchup, “ketchup leather,” to be served in warm sandwiches.

Your best example of a food that is better because of science?
Beta-carotene enriched rice.

How do you think science will impact your world of food in the next five years?
I think we will see hydroponic gardens attached to restaurants allowing us to serve more locally produced fruits and vegetables.

One kitchen tool you could not live without?
The French/chef’s knife.

Five things most likely to be found in your fridge?
Flourless bread, soy milk, nuts and grains including steel-cut oatmeal (it keeps them from going rancid), extra virgin olive oil.

Your all-time favorite ingredient?
Farmers market garlic and shallots.

Favorite cookbook?
“The French Laundry” by Thomas Keller.

Your standard breakfast?
Steel-cut oatmeal eaten cold with frozen organic blueberries, bananas, flaxseed meal, roasted slivered almonds and soy milk followed by a soy latte or espresso. This is my breakfast 95 percent of the time.