It was during the fall of 1992 when Gene Sakahara and Gene Bozzo were called in at the last minute to replace Rudy Melone, Garlic Festival co-founder, for a cooking demonstration at the Nob Hill Foods Hecker Pass Family Adventure Park.
A year later, when they made their way to the cooking stage for the first time as SakaBozzo, the comedic culinary duo were a hit with the crowd. This Friday will mark the 25th appearance at the festival for these Gilroy residents.
But the sad part is it’s also going to be their final show.
“We thought that we had a good run at it,” Sakahara said. “We want to go off while we’re still welcomed and then give other people a chance at it.”
The show might be done with after this week, however Sakahara, 68, and Bozzo, 75, plan to be part of the garlic festival in a more low key situation.
“The festival is in both of our bloods,” Bozzo said. “We believe in the festival. We believe what good it does for the community and we’re just moving over to another assignment. That’s all.”
This year the two former garlic festival presidents are adding their grandsons to the show. Bozzo will have his grandson Dominic, 8, accompany him, while Sakahara will bring up his grandsons Bode, 10, and Kiden Gonzales, 9.
“That’ll be fun because we’ve always tried to portray cooking for the family,” Sakahara said. “That’s what we’re about, is family. And we really enjoy the meals together.”
Sakahara and Bozzo are known to mix it up year after year with new recipes that include garlic and this year will be no different. Sakahara will make Mendocino crab cakes with Bode and Kiden. Bozzo will make southern Italian red sauce with pork and Dominic will make a family recipe known as Carmela’s Meatballs.
Bozzo said the inspiration for SakaBozzo came from someone he watched at the festival, but it wasn’t quite the vision he wanted to model the show after.
“He cooked the same thing every year,” Bozzo said “People kind of got tired of that. We never did that, every year was a different recipe.”
The SakaBozzo show was also all about cooking for the family and over the years the Gilroy Garlic Festival became a big family to them.
Bozzo said they both have strong beliefs in cooking with family and friends. Nowadays, he said, people are always on the go and don’t have time for a family meal.
What started as a friendly favor to substitute for an ill friend quickly turned into a success for the SakaBozzo show. They have been asked to make a special appearance at the 40th annual garlic fest in 2018 and they agreed without hesitation.
“We’ll still be involved but not on the cook-off stage every year,” Sakahara said “But it’ll be good to just relax a little bit too.”