Zoli's Head Chef Matt Reddick Doesn't Mind A Little Ranch On His Pie, So Long As It Kicks.

Welcome to Wild Things, where we dive into the kitchen of some of Dallas' most daring chefs to find out what wild, interesting ingredients these food artists are playing with. Whether it's a taboo ingredient or just a food item you wouldn't think you'd find at a certain establishment, it's about time someone highlighted the unconventional or unexpected. Here, we invite you to open your mind — and your mouth — to the wild things in Dallas.

Zoli's NY Pizza.
202 West Davis Street.
Oak Cliff.

Daring Chef: Matt Reddick.

A couple months back, Zoli's NY Pizza made headlines and caused a firestorm on social media when its opening night didn't go so well. The restaurant has made a recovery since that disastrous night, though, receiving positive reviews from many local publications, including our own.

And one of those responsible for helping the new joint's revival is head chef Matt Reddick.
The 34-year-old has worked with Zoli's owner Jay Jerrier since the early days of Cane Rosso. He served as kitchen manager for the Deep Ellum eatery for a little over a year, then took a sales job and cooked for private events on the side. He's dedicated most of the last eight years of his life to working in a kitchen, but it took him a while to pursue this passion as a career.

The Dallas native graduated from SMU with a degree in international relations. He never used his degree — not in the professional sense, at least — but he's worked various jobs all over the country. After college, he worked as a lift operator in Keystone and in a political campaign in Boston, then attended the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont. After that, he took off to England and worked in the fine dining world.

Although he's worked in upscale restaurants, Reddick says the fine dining scene can be “overly pretentious” — something he believes doesn't represent the kind of person he is. Casual dining is his passion, he says, because it reminds him of home.

Below, Reddick reveals how he's bringing a touch of his home to the New York-style pizza place with what he feels is the wildest ingredient in his kitchen — a Texas favorite most people rarely, if ever, see on a pie.

What is the wildest ingredient in your kitchen?
I think one of the things that sets us apart a little bit — and it's not like something you wouldn't see anywhere else, per se, but I think that we do it the best — is our jalapeno ranch. It's got that spice, the kick from the jalapeno. We don't use any packets or anything like that. I get in buttermilk, I get in fresh chives and we put in a lot of care and actual good ingredients. We don't just get buttermilk and mayonnaise and mix it with the packet. It took me a while to get the right balance of adding the right amount of jalapenos. We do put a little bit of cherry peppers in there, as well. It's just got that perfect amount of kick. And, for a place like this, I think it's such a perfect complement. So many people love ranch, of course, and our sister restaurants, Cane Rosso, are the anti-ranch. So, it's kind of nice to be able to just almost flaunt it here — like, we have ranch and it's awesome.

We use cherry peppers and jalapenos. The jalapenos are nice, but the cherry peppers have been soaked in that vinegar, so it just gives it that slight tanginess that you won't catch right off the bat, but at the end of the tongue it's really nice.

Most recently, we've featured this ingredient on our chicken bacon pizza. So, it's basically pancetta and our chicken parmesan that we use for sandwiches. We fry it, chop up the chicken and we'll feature it on the pizza.

What does it taste like?
It's richer [than a processed ranch], more full-bodied. There's a lot more depth of flavor than a typical ranch can have. It's not [super spicy]. It's got a kick, but it's not a lasting kick. It'll go away. It's thicker. We actually use xanthan gum to thicken it. It's nice because you don't want to cook the ranch, and there's not a lot of thickening agents out there that work on cold sauces. Xanthan gum is one of those [few]. Like cornstarch, you can add it to it, but it's only gonna thicken so much unless you cook it. Xanthan gum is actually one of those that a little goes a long way and it'll thicken it pretty well. So, you get that nice consistency out of it, and it doesn't have any flavor.

Why did you decide to feature this ingredient?
I have daily specials, and you can come in here and see something that you'll never get on any pizza anywhere in this town — or probably anywhere else in the country. The jalapeno ranch is something that we have all the time; it's on the menu. There's plenty of places that have ranch, but I've been to them and I've been in the kitchens and I know they use packets. I don't know. There's probably a few other places that do it from scratch, but I came up with this recipe and I'm confident that it's unique and wild, I guess.

What makes having this item in your kitchen special?
The quality of it. The care that I take from scratch. We do that with our pizzas. We do that with every single item that we have. We make everything from scratch and use quality ingredients, so it's just a perfect match, a perfect complement to our pizzas, sandwiches, to everything that we have here. So, it's one of those utility items that you can plug and play into anything that we have here.

Made-from-scratch jalapeno ranch.

Some of the raw ingredients used to make the jalapeno ranch: roasted jalapenos, cherry peppers, fresh parsley and chives, raw garlic, paprika, ground mustard, salt and pepper.

The cooked pancetta used in the chicken bacon pizza.

Chopped chicken parmesan.

Reddick prepares the pizza dough in the open kitchen at Zoli's.

Reddick stretches the pizza dough. He trained with a New York-style pizza expert from Brooklyn named Frank to learn the trade.

The chef prepares the pizza, adding with pancetta.

Roasted red pepper is added to the chicken bacon pizza.

Reddick's culinary creation cooks in the oven at Zoli's.

He finishes drizzling jalapeno ranch on the pizza.

A close-up of the ranch-topped pizza.

Zoli's head chef Matt Reddick with chicken bacon pizza, $3 per slice.

Zoli's owner Jay Jerrier snaps a photo of the freshly-made pizza.

Chicken bacon pizza. Reddick says Zoli's doesn't typically sell whole pizzas, but they're thinking about starting that service “pretty soon.” He says this particular 20-inch pizza will probably sell for $22 to $25.

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