Meet the Bloggers: Alex Hochman
You read them here, now find out who the hell they are: We give you the diverse group of men and women who cover the local food and drink scene for you on SFoodie.
Blogs about: Restaurants, kids' food, Jewish stuff, Danny Bowien
San Francisco native Alex Hochman is the cool dad you always wish you had. He respects his two daughters enough to feed them shrimp heads and expose them to the Strokes, yet somehow avoids trying too hard ("Hey dudes, whassup? Your pops was just rockin' out to some gnarly tunes!") Alex's family is just part of his identity, though. As a frequent contributor to SFoodie, and before that his own blog, Urban Stomach, he has long been defined as a voracious eater with a surplus of dining bravado. Sharing a sandwich the size of a house cat on a sunny Sunday in Mission Terrace, I learned a little bit more about this renaissance/family man.
Jesse: When did you start your love affair with food?
Alex: My parents were always really into good food and they rewarded me for my curiosity. One of my earliest memories was eating this crazy hot and sour soup in Chicago's Chinatown at the age of 7. I couldn't get enough of it. My parents were so proud, but my sister was sleeping under that table; she had zero interest in food. I've got tons of memories like that, or when our dog was going crazy outside the bathroom door and it turned out my mom had a bunch of ducks hanging in there.
When did you start building your own food identity, separate from your folks?
When I was 15 or 16 years old, I started organizing lunch for everybody in high school. I would collect a bunch of money, then take the BART downtown and get [pizza] pies at Blondie's. I'd probably make, like, a nickel per slice, but my goal wasn't profit; I wanted people to eat a decent lunch. When I found Roxie's, it was the same thing -- every free period I would cruise over in my '79 Cadillac Seville, probably two or three times a week.
Were you the only one of your friends so dedicated?
Yep, I think so. I kind of acquired a reputation from an early age as the food guy. It helped that I was always doing showoff things, like eating a whole Sno Ball in one bite, or eating a blood sausage sandwich. To some extent I'm still like that now. Who do you think got the sweetbreads and the heart at Incanto last night? Not that I don't enjoy those things, but I also love a good challenge.
Are you a home cook?
More now than I used to be. Back in the day, I was mostly an eat-out guy, with a few pasta and grilled dishes in my repertoire. I felt like I didn't have the coordination to chop an onion without chopping off my finger. Plus who wants to clean everything up? Then I met my wife, Pam, a serious cook. She once had to choose between getting her MBA or going to CIA. I really wanted to impress her so I started to refine my skills in the kitchen.
What are your specialties?
My go-to is definitely Italian. When you're working with garlic, crushed tomatoes, and basil as your base ingredients, it's pretty hard to screw up. I cook a seven-course Sopranos dinner as a charity auction item for my kids' school each year and it's pretty decent. I have a lot harder time wrapping my head around French food. It seems like there are hundreds of things that can go wrong there, whether you're making a reduction or a béchamel or whatever.
Favorite food moment?
In high school, my mom used to make me run into Aidells to buy their amazing sausages. This was back when it was a small company in the Dogpatch, and the neighborhood was a much scarier place to visit. My fears were a little exaggerated but I was always afraid of catching a bullet down there. After I graduated, I went to school in Ann Arbor, thousands of miles from home. And somehow, in this deli Zingerman's (which quickly became my favorite off-campus spot), they had Aidells sausages for sale. I had no idea how it had happened but I called my mom immediately: "You'll never guess what I'm looking at right now!"