Class Notes Profile: Culinary engineer

Dave Lichterman “You can incorporate non-traditional flavors, and you don’t need special equipment,” says Dave Lichterman of how he prepares his Windy City pies. (Photo by Nate Watters)
Illinois alumnus Dave Lichterman serves Chicago-style deep-dish to customers in the Pacific Northwest.

Most kids want to grow up to be astronauts, doctors or veterinarians. At one point during his Chicago childhood, Dave Lichterman, ’07 ENG, dreamed of becoming a pizza deliveryman. “I bet you get all the pizza you want,” he remembers thinking, “and pizza is awesome!”

Lichterman now owns and operates Windy City Pie, a deep-dish joint that has Seattleites raving. He offers minimal delivery costs (and no dine-in). Most customers order online and then pick up their pies on the street corner near his commercial kitchen.

Lichterman is using his engineering background to write software that will optimize the ordering process. “Right now, I need to touch every order,” he says. “Going forward, I want the customer to choose a time and have it added to the work queue.”

The fact that Windy City Pie is booked days in advance speaks to the quality of the product. The almost-sweet crust draws inspiration from Papa Del’s in Champaign, while the cheesy, caramelized edges pay homage to Burt’s Place and Pequod’s Pizza in Morton Grove, Ill. But Lichterman has a unique approach honed during study-abroad trips to Argentina and Spain, where he baked in tiny ovens using local ingredients. “You can incorporate non-traditional flavors, and you don’t need special equipment,” he says.

In addition to classic sausage, mushroom and bell pepper, Windy City Pie offers options such as Sweet Pete, which is topped with candied bacon and giardinera. Lichterman also tinkers with white sauce, caramelized pears and Brussels sprouts.

When fellow Midwesterners with fond deep-dish memories express their admiration, he adds, “those are the most rewarding moments of all.”