Waco Chat

Blaine Peper

By Kevin Tankersley

Head Chef at Pignetti’s Waco

“I was constantly challenged on making new recipes and new flavor combinations.”

I kind of just felt at home in the kitchen. Growing up, for the most part, I had parents who worked late nights. And so, most of the time, my sister and I were cooking for ourselves, and almost every night, I would be trying to cook something that I would enjoy.

And I got tired of eating eggs every night so I eventually started making croque madame, essentially a piece of bread with an egg on top and bechamel sauce. Then when I went to Slow Rise, it kind of started coming back up, and it was like, ‘Wow. I really, really love this and I think I can do well in this.’

I worked at Slow Rise when I was 18. That was my first cooking job. And then after that, I realized that I wanted to pursue this as a career, and so I went and asked Jason Rolf, chef of The Grape, to give me a job. I kind of started as his apprentice. And as I learned more and more and more, he made me sous chef. And then from there, we kind of just collaborated on menus every day.

And I learned a lot there, because it’s a new menu every day. I was constantly challenged on making new recipes and new flavor combinations. And then I worked at Yaki for about eight months as the pitmaster, smoking all the meats.

We’re pulling some of the same things from Pignetti’s Temple, but I’m kind of putting my own twist on them. And then a few other new things that I’ve added. So everything’s my recipes.

My newest pasta addition is called Pasta alla Norcina. It’s a very traditional Northern Italian dish that has a lot of brown sausage, and a white wine cream sauce. All of our steak options are different. The size is different. We do a very large portion of steaks, usually around 16 ounces. Our filet is very traditional, 8-ounce, but we do it more of a rustic Italian style. We do smash fried potatoes with roasted broccolini, so it’s a little bit more of an upscale dish.

I just want to learn more. I want to bounce around a few places in the United States and learn under some great chefs. And hopefully one day, come back here and open something up that’s my own. It would probably be something like a speakeasy style, like a backdoor restaurant. It’s very low-key, with some membership basis. You can come in, open the back door and there’s red carpets on the floor and nice heavy drapes, a pretty wooden bar, and then an open kitchen.

People can feel very private and have their dinners at night, something that’s very upscale and kind of kind of formed around membership. It would probably be like an upscale Southern eatery, but that [idea] bounces around every day.

Blaine Peper is the head chef at Pignetti’s Waco in the former home of the Phoenix Ballroom. He’s 23, and started working in the food business when he was 18. Some of the menu items are carryovers from Pignetti’s original Temple location, but Peper has put his own twist on them. He’s the son of Amy and Dr. Bill Peper, and went to Bishop Louis Reicher High School in Waco.