In June 2020, Michael Charpentier came from Portland, OR, to visit his friend Jordan Taylor in Sioux Falls.
Owners of Bread & Circus Sandwich Kitchen, Taylor and Barry Putzke were playing with the idea of opening a pizza shop.
After some talks, Charpentier offered himself as a chef for their brainchild.
“I have been obsessed with pizza for years but had never made it professionally, so I was extremely excited for the challenge,” he said.
In November, Pizza Cheeks opened inside The Hello Hi in downtown Sioux Falls.
“It took me a couple days of living here to realize this was exactly where I needed to be, so I started looking into buying a house and putting down roots,” said Charpentier.
WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT INGREDIENT IN PIZZA?
It seems obvious, but I’m going with it anyway: the dough. It’s the foundation of everything and easily the part we stressed about the most during recipe testing and development. Somewhat miraculously we hit on our current version with attempt number six or seven out of the dozen or so variations we tried. We slow ferment our dough for three days to get the ideal flavor, texture, and consistency. We also use it to make focaccia, and we are currently testing Sicilian-style pies that we’re really excited about.
WHAT SHOULD PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT YOU?
My mission in life is to help people eat better, whether that means cooking for them or teaching them how to be better cooks.
WHERE DO YOU HANG OUT IN SIOUX FALLS?
Having Pizza Cheeks inside The Hello Hi makes for a great place to hang out after work and have a cocktail. I love grabbing a pint or three at Fernson [Brewing Company] downtown, especially on the patio in the summer. Carpenter Bar is another favorite, and Bread & Circus, of course, for beers and [sandwiches].
I’M THE CHEF DE CUISINE OF PIZZA CHEEKS, BUT I PREFER THE TITLE HEAD PIZZAIOLO.
DO YOU HAVE ANY HIDDEN TALENTS?
I think I’m a pretty good dancer. Ask anyone who knows me: I dance anytime, anywhere.
HAVE YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A CHEF?
I had a ton of other aspirations prior to becoming a professional cook: journalist, writer, globe-trotting DJ, English teacher. I came into cooking later in life; I started culinary school when I was 25. Two days in, and I knew I was doing exactly what I should be. There’s always new flavors to try, new techniques to learn, and new challenges to overcome.