Ethical Pie

Bill Freeman ’92, CEO of Patxi’s Pizza, was honored as one of 2013’s Most-Admired CEOs in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Business Times.When it comes to food trends, there’s dough to be made in the pizza business. Just ask Bill Freeman ’92, who’s about to open his 14th Patxi’s Pizza, in Santa Barbara—with a goal of 75 restaurants in five years.

Patxi’s (“Pah-Cheese”) is named after Freeman’s partner and pizza maker, Francisco “Patxi” Azpiroz. In 2004, Freeman threw down a challenge to his friend, who was managing Zachary’s Chicago Pizza, a popular pizzeria in Berkeley and Oakland.

“I asked Patxi if he could make a pizza as good or better. He came up with his own dough recipe and his own sauce recipe, and baked pizzas for me in his apartment in Rockridge until we perfected them,” said Freeman, who kicked in the money for their first location in Palo Alto.

Just for fun, Stanford mathematicians recently calculated the number of Patxi’s pizza combinations—a whopping 9 million, factoring for the thin crust, two Chicago-style crusts (stuffed and pan), whole wheat, gluten free, vegan, 36 ingredients, etc. But this isn’t all that sets this place apart.

Taking pizza from fast food to artisanal has won Patxi’s a mention in Forbes magazine’s list of the Hottest Food Trends for 2014. Using only fresh, healthy ingredients drives up the cost, but Freeman sees this as an ethical choice reinforced by his time at Saint Mary’s and one course in particular—Don DePaoli’s business ethics class.

“He would have guest speakers from major companies, some of them Fortune 500 companies, talk about ethical issues that they faced in business,” Freeman said. “Some of them decided their ethics were more important than their job, and they walked away from being the CEO.”

Ethics also means building community. Patxi’s holds weekly neighborhood fundraisers and Freeman is a volunteer deputy sheriff with the San Francisco Mounted Unit.

Parade security on horseback may not be as risky as building a pizza empire, but it clearly shows moxie.

“When you’re riding down Columbus Street, and the Blue Angels are going over your head and there are people everywhere, it can be a little scary,” said Freeman.

—Ginny Prior

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