Guest Bloggers
Tradition--Really?
John Arena

Lately I’ve been thinking about Roger Bannister. No, Bannister is not the latest hot shot artisan pizza maker. For those of you too young to remember, Roger Bannister was a British track & field athlete who on May 6, 1954 became the first person to run a sub 4 minute mile. Roger, who was later knighted for his efforts, broke what was considered by the general public to be an unbreakable barrier. What is interesting is that, to serious athletes of the day, shattering the 4 minute obstacle was considered not impossible but inevitable. The fact is they were correct, and the current US High School record stands at a full 6 seconds faster than Sir Roger Bannister’s World Record achievement of just 57 years ago!

So what has this got to do with pizza? Well, last week I came across an article in a pizza trade publication about a certain well established pizza chain that proudly stated that their pizza has not

 
Pizza and Mythology
John Arena

 

Lately I’ve been thinking about pizza and mythology. Certainly the history of Italy is punctuated by myths and legends, from the time of the Etruscans right up to the exploits of the current Prime Minister. So why wouldn't the subject of pizza be any different?

The plain fact is there are a lot of myths and fables (some true and some not so much), but also misinformation, and even outright deception in the world of pizza. Starting with what I call the “Big Three Myths” , specifically, New York “holy water”, “heirloom” Chicago pizza pans, and “magic” Italian-made wood burning ovens. While all three of these prevailing fables of pizza making are easily debunked by any rational pizza maker, there is one area of our craft that I think merits some consideration. I am referring to what could be considered the three "schools" of pizza making.

School number one consists of the ingredient devotees. Their focus is on the fact that only the very best (usually imported) ingredients must be selected for their pizzas. Their mantra is “Use the best stuff and get out of the way”. What they mean is that the pizza maker must let every ingredient speak for itself. The belief is that great ingredients result in great pizza.

School number two is made up of equipment disciples. These pizza makers dedicate time and considerable expense to finding the right tools of the trade. The major object of their attention is usually the oven. They will spare no expense in importing ovens from Naples or, in some cases, bringing in artisan oven builders to hand craft an “authentic” pizza oven on-site. The thinking is that great pizza can only come out of a great oven.

The third major school of pizza making is dedicated to technique. The premise is that skilled hands

 
BBQ Pizza--Not
Tom Carrig

Lately I’ve been thinking about barbecue pizza. My favorite local purveyor of pies recently had a daily special he called, “BBQ Pizza.”  I could not order it.  I have little doubt that it was a delicious nosh, but the name just rubbed me the wrong way, and I shared my thoughts, which follow here, with the pizziaolo.

Topping a pizza with some combination of meat and barbecue sauce—regardless of quality—does not constitute barbecued pizza.  Likewise, grilling a boneless, skinless chicken breast covered with sauce is not barbecued chicken. To be sure, the term “barbecue” is one of the most misunderstood, and consequently, abused terms in the culinary world.

A quick web search for the definition of barbecue clearly demonstrates the lack of clarity

 
Let the Buyer Beware!
John Arena

Lately I’ve been thinking about "counterfeiters."  More specifically, I’ve been thinking about a Latin saying that dates back to the early 1500’s, Caveat Emptor, or, "Let the buyer beware." In this era, more than any other, it has become crucial that we understand what is truly behind the labels on the products that we buy. Unfortunately this is especially true of Italian products.  With global awareness creating unprecedented demand for Italian food items the door has swung open for all sorts of deception and outright fraud.


Here is something to think about: The country of Italy is roughly the size of Arizona. Italy has a food based culture. Plain and simple, the Italians can consume much of the highest quality

 
Creativity and Modern Times
Joseph Pergolizzi

A couple days ago, I was doing some work on my laptop at a little cafe in Boulder.  Taking a sip from my Cafe Americano, I looked up to realize I was surrounded by people who seemed completely hypnotized by the light of their computers.  Then a group of high school students came through the line, texting and talking away.  With a quick swipe of a credit card the baristas had them out the door and on their way.  I couldn't help thinking, "My, how things have changed!"

These modern developments have, no doubt, allowed us to be more efficient in many ways.  Still, I have to wonder, what have these times done to the quality of our creative output? How will these

 
Report from the Vegas Pizza Expo
John Arena

I’m not sure who was working at the world’s great pizzerias the first week in March, because it is clear that for a brief time the center of the pizza universe was the Las Vegas Convention Center. The International Pizza Expo has always been the premier event for professional pizza makers, but this year the show has improved to an astonishing degree. It has become a place where mozzarella d’ buffalo can coexist with kangaroo pepperoni, and both can be accepted with respect and open mindedness.

This was a real gathering of the tribes, with just about every pizza style and preference represented, including some variations I had never seen before. Finalists in the pizza competition included a unique Detroit style pan pizza that had a charred edge, created by inserting shredded mozzarella between the pan and the dough before baking (as shown in the photo). Over 900 different exhibitors were on hand to display, demonstrate and distribute samples of their products. 6400 pizza makers were in attendance, and this year everyone remarked about the level of enthusiasm and optimism that prevailed.

In what was once a fragmented and secretive industry, pizza pros from all over the world freely

 

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