Happy Independence Day! Aladdin Celebrates July’s National Culinary Arts Month

Happy July 4th!  In observation of Independence Day, we are also celebrating July’s National Culinary Arts Month.  We are proud of our culinarians’ accomplishments! Meet John Rifkin, Director of Culinary, Education, who has received several gold and silver medals for his talents during American Culinary Federation competitions. My main responsibility is to create and provide an environment that our over 300 culinarians can express their culinary passions. We ensure our chefs have the ability to continue their culinary education in whatever areas their hearts desire.  We also work with our procurement teams to ensure we always have the highest of quality products and work with our operation teams to ensure our menus, and recipes are at their best –  so that our culinary teams can serve their students and customers to the very best of their ability!” 

Chef John’s culinary mentor was his father.  “He was an amazing chef, and always cared about the people who worked for him.

Chef John’s advice for future culinarians is to always run to food!   “If you every feel like you are about to take a shortcut in the preparation of your food, or allow your team to not follow your standards, stop yourself and run back to the thing that you are most passionate about: The food you serve and the people who help you get there.

Enjoy this delicious Pizza Margherita during your July 4th holiday picnics!



  • 1 28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 tsp kosher salt (or 2/3 tsp table salt)
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh garlic
  • 3 large leaves fresh basil


  • 369grams Italian 0 or 00 flour – I like Molina Caputo
  • 236grams water
  • 10 gramssalt
  • 4 grams Sourdough starter or dry yeast – quantity from the table in the post above.


  • 1 batch Neapolitan pizza dough see note for link
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella or fior di latte
  • 6-8 fresh basil leaves
  • sprinkle of parmigiano Reggiano
  • drizzle of olive oil


  1. Preheat your pizza oven. Actual temperature depends on the nature of the oven you are using. I can’t tell you what temperature works best for your oven. You have to figure that out. Between 700-800F is a good starting point.
  2. While your oven heats up, coarsely pull apart your fresh mozzarella. You want pieces about the size of a grape. Put the cheese on paper towel and cover with more paper towel. You are trying to dry it out a bit.
  3. Open the dough. Don’t roll it. Just don’t. Unless you like tough, dense dough of course…
  4. Put about 4 tablespoons of sauce on the pizza dough. Spread it around. Use two spoons here. If you use the same spoon you will cross contaminate your sauce. And it will go off faster. Trust me. I’ve made this mistake more than once.
  5. Place the mozzarella on the pizza. You are looking for a roughly even distribution. Sprinkle a bit of parmigiano overtop. Add 3-4 basil leaves and drizzle with olive oil.
  6. Flour your peel. Pull the pizza gently onto the peel. Reshape your pizza to try to get it roughly round.
  7. Launch your pizza. Be brave. Don’t try to jiggle it off the paddle. That makes the dough contract. Makes the pizza shrink. You want to be assertive. You may fail the first few times but you will get it.
  8. Depending on temperature your pizza will cook in 90 seconds to 2 minutes. Watch the edge of the pizza while it cooks. Rotate it as needed to avoid burning badly. A bit of char is good. Too much isn’t.

As soon as the crust starts to go light brown and you see the little black blisters pull the pizza and enjoy!




Baking Her Way…

Aladdin baker Arena Oian at Williston State College is featured in a new Heart of

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