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The Wood-Fired Blog

Pizza Intensive – Learning the Craft

Jul 23, 2020Posted by Forno Bravo

The North American Pizza and Culinary Academy (NAPCA) in Lyle, IL knows pizza! They regularly offer fun, food-centric, date nights, and cooking classes for the general public. However, a few times a year, they also offer special courses for those who really want to take their pizza making skills to the next level. 

As an authorized branch of the Scuola Italiana Pizzaioli, the oldest pizza school in Italy, Master Instructor, Chef Leo Spizzirri, trains a small group of serious students to be certified as a pizzaiolo (5-day course) using the Scuola’s official curriculum. The school also offers a shorter, 3-day intensive class that covers much of the same course material, but without the final exam or certificate. Both the 3 and 5-day classes will be held again in August if you want to make an investment in your culinary future, or just become a more proficient wood fired chef. Visit NAPCA’s website for the full class schedule.

What’s Covered in the 5-Day Course

The long course covers both the theory and practice of making Classic Italian Pizza. It includes time in the classroom, the dough room, and the oven room, as students learn about pizza and its components and then put those lessons into practice. The 5-day course is intended for those with enough experience to handle the fast pace and in-depth discussions of this pizza intensive. A screening interview by phone will be conducted ahead of time to ensure the class is a good fit for you. There are also two exams given during the course that are part of the certification process.

General topics covered include:

  • History of classic Italian pizza
  • Chemistry of Italian doughs; ingredient options and the impacts of those choices
  • Preparation of traditional ingredients for toppings
  • Focused training on traditional Italian and American pizza equipment (including gas, wood, and electric ovens)
  • Proper dough preparation and mixing, stretching, topping, and baking techniques

Most students who take this course have worked in pizzerias, or have a culinary, or baking background. Many are looking to further their career in the industry, or even want to open a pizzeria of their own. Some students are also experienced home chefs and wood fired oven owners who have a desire to dive deeply into the pizza culture and expand their expertise and knowledge.

Highlights of the 3-Day Course

The popular 3-day pizza immersion class is designed for the more advanced pizza maker, but one who is not interested in full certification at this time. It is also a blend of classroom work and hands-on  practice, since part of good pizza making, like all baking, is science, and part is training your senses to see, feel, taste, and smell when the dough is “right.” Specifically, the class covers dough chemistry and the functionality of ingredients, preparation and baking techniques, and understanding of the technical differences between various Italian styles of pizza. After taking this course, students gain the confidence to make great pies, and develop a deeper appreciation for the craft. This is also a great class for new oven owners who want to jump-start their learning curve.

Back to School!

The most recent 5-day class finished just last week. It was the first pizzaiolo training session NAPCA was able to hold since March, due to COVID-related travel and gathering restrictions. Since so much of the class is hands-on instruction, in-person presence is vital to its success. To accommodate local guidelines and increase student and instructor safety, the school has upped their sanitation regiment, masks were used during the practical sessions, desks were well spaced for social distancing, and the class size was kept small. (Actually – class sizes for this course are always kept small to ensure the good student to teacher ratios needed for an intensive like this.) The staff was excited to meet their new students and see what they would bake; the students arrived ready and eager to learn!

Check out a few photos below from the class to get a flavor for what the students experienced. You can find the video presentation of certifications and more photos from the week on their Facebook and Instagram pages.

bi-pic of chef teaching and students learning

Part of the course is in the classroom, part is hands-on, all of it is practical!

 

chefs in training - dough work

The foundation of pizza is the dough, so a lot of time is spent on learning to do it right.

 

instructor and students working with wood fired oven

Learning to work the Forno Bravo wood fired oven and demonstrating the perfect leopard spots on a classic Italian crust.

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