HOMER -- Looking more like a carpenter than a chef as he gutted a small kitchen at Alice's Champagne Palace in Homer, Evan Vogl is following the classic philosophy of the entrepreneur.
After 18 years in other people's restaurants from Wyoming to Fairbanks, Vogl is ready to work for himself. At the end of the month, he's leaving the executive chef job he's held at Land's End Resort for a year and a half and firing up the ovens at his own business -- Fat Rack Pizza.
The rented space is small, just about 15-by-20 feet in the outside corner of Alice's on Pioneer Avenue, but with a serving window into the tavern and night club and another one open to the street, he sees the best of both worlds for a pizza place. Customers can simply walk up to pick up a pizza from outside, or customers in the club can order.
With a microbrewery planned soon in Alice's, Vogl is also counting on the natural combination of pizza and beer to keep his ovens hot.
"I set a goal for myself when I was 18 that I would have my own business by the time I was 35," the Vogl said.
At 32, he's made it with room to spare. Learning by doing, Vogl said he actually started out at 14, working part-time in a pizza place in Dallas, Texas. A few years later, he said he began serious training as an apprentice to the chef at a Ramada Inn in Oklahoma.
Honored in January as a Star of the Industry for 2001 by the Alaska Hotel and Lodging Association for work in the Land's End kitchen, Vogl sees pizza as its own challenge.
"It's a change, but there's still a lot of creativity," he said.
With New York-style pizza as his centerpiece based around the thin, chewy Neapolitan crust, Vogl plans to offer a variety of crusts, six sauces, 12 cheeses and a variety of speciality and veggie pizzas, toppings and calzones.
Also on the menu will be Caesar salads, stromboli and New York-style cheesecake.
After working from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Land's End, Vogl said he's been spending each afternoon working on his kitchen at Alice's and installing the used pizza ovens he found in a restaurant supply house in Anchorage. The 2,000-pound double oven was trucked down to Homer on March 26.
"I'm in the deconstruction phase," he said with a grin as he ripped out old fixtures and floor covering in preparation for installing new materials.
The plan was to open April 1. On a note announcing the birth of Fat Rack Pizza, Vogl and his wife, Kathy, make a point of noting that it's also April Fool's Day. From the work and risk he's putting into his plan, it wouldn't appear Vogl is fooling around.
R.J. Kelly is the managing editor of the Homer News.
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