By Alyssa Verhoof
Alumni of the Journalism and Media Studies Department are reporters, editors, PR people, teachers, lawyers and political operatives. But pizza chef?
Meet Michele Lucarelli, who was at J/MS in 2008 as an exchange student from Urbino University in Italy.
Lucarelli, a prolific food blogger and pizza maker since he was 17 years old, is actually a kind of “pizza celebrity” in Italy.
After returning to Italy from New Brunswick, he knew he wanted to turn pizza into something he considered to be “different,” so he began making pizzas that were organic. Instead of yeast he cooked the pizza with sourdough, and instead of using industrial and processed ingredients he determined only to use fresh and organic ones.
He uses a long fermentation style with the sour dough. It develops slowly over 48 hours in a controlled temperature, giving off a characteristic fragrance. The invention is known as “BioPizza.”
“It is a new way to think about pizza —combining pizza with a lot of excellence in our region,” noted Lucarelli.
He claims his tastes unlike any other type of pizza. “It is very healthy for you,” said Lucarelli, “and you can digest it very easily.” People who have gluten allergies say it is very easy to eat, he added.
The organic pizzas quickly became a hit in his region, and Lucarelli soon became well known for his culinary invention.
He has always had a love for journalism, food and traveling. He took the opportunity to study at Rutgers to challenge himself to learn a different culture. When he first began his studies in New Jersey, he said it was difficult, but over time he adapted to the New Jersey atmosphere and smell.
When Lucarelli arrived in America, he had a blog written in Italian about his travel experiences, and he blogged about his life in America. His J/MS courses helped him polish his writing skills and his English. He remembered Professor Barbara Reed for being inspiring and particularly helpful.
“In my time there I met a lot of wonderful people,” he said. “I really enjoyed the social environment and extra-curricular activities, like hosting international pizza parties.”
After the semester at Rutgers, Lucarelli returned to Italy to finish up his bachelor’s degree in Advertising and Communications.
However, Lucarelli was not 100 percent sure what he wanted to do with his degree. He knew though that he wanted to incorporate journalism and something that he loved, which was food.
He explained that he had discovered his passion for food and cooking when he became a pizza chef in his hometown when he was a teenager. “I just took the job because I needed money to pay my schooling bills,” recalled Lucarelli. “I didn’t know I had a passion for food and cooking until then.”
Lucarelli continued to work at the pizza parlor after he obtained his bachelor’s degree, but as his organic pizza became more popular, Lucarelli wanted to take a next step in the food industry and apply for a job as a head pizza chef.
Last July he was surfing the internet and noticed a job opening at a restaurant in New Zealand for a head pizza chef. Lucarelli decided to take the risk and apply. Two days later he received a phone call from the restaurant saying that it was extremely impressed with his resume and would love to hire him.
Lucarelli accepted the job offer right away, and four months later, in October, Lucarelli packed his chef hat and jetted off to New Zealand.
There, he is making new pizza converts every day and keeping up with his writing. Lucarelli has a new blog — in English (http://motochef.me) — about the different restaurants and cafés all over southern New Zealand where he travels by motor bike.
The plan is to return to Italy at the end of this summer and keep up with his blog there. He has hopes to continue with his organic pizza business and take it to the next level.
Maybe even back to New Jersey.