Several readers have asked me why I like pizza so much, so I thought I would take a minute to write out my story… My love for pizza has been with me for as long as I can remember. My love for pizza making started with my first job. I was hired at age 15 as a cook at our local Pizza Hut. My first assignment was to open the restaurant with a senior cook who taught me how to mix, pan and proof 3 types of dough (thin, pan and hand-tossed). I was hooked from the beginning! I stayed at Pizza Hut for 5 years while attending high school and my first 2 years of college. During that time I did some delivery and some waiting of tables, but my main job was cook. By the end of my time there, I had become proficient at dough prep, sauce making, pizza topping, pizza cutting and even washing dishes! It was there, too, that I met my lovely wife. I also saw the major chain grow and change. For example, during my time there we stopped chopping our own vegetables and began getting large bags of “veggie mix” frozen from our distributor. We also began getting personal pan pizza blanks and breadsticks as frozen parbaked products. I think I was blessed to learn what I did before the restaurant got too far away from a traditional pizza operation. We had some good times experimenting with the pizzas and creating our own recipes.
As I began to take on more of a load at school, I began looking for a less demanding part-time job. My brother convinced me to join him at Pizza Outlet which was an up and coming pizza chain that started in Pittsburgh. Pizza Outlet was much more of a traditional pizza shop. I was a delivery driver, but part of our job was to help prep the kitchen. We sliced vegetables, helped make dough, folded boxes and washed dishes of course (there was no dining room). Pizza Outlet gave me a new perspective on pizza since the corporate climate was removed and I saw what a simpler operation was like. There was no “veggie mix” or “meat mix”, just freshly sliced onions, peppers and mushrooms. In addition, the dough process was different there. I learned to retard dough balls and bag dough that would be used for more than one day. Being a delivery driver, I got to see what customers liked and expected from a pizza provider. I also made more money per hour there as a delivery person than any other job I’ve ever had! Pizza Outlet pizza was one of my favorite pizzas.
When I graduated from college, I stopped working in the pizza industry and began buying pizza. I realized that for close to 10 years I had eaten pizza nearly every day and never had to pay for it! It’s still strange for me to visit a Pizza Hut and not go to the kitchen to toss my own pie! I began to try every pizza I could find and really develop my idea of what pizza should look and taste like. Life was good until I moved to central PA.
When I arrived in central PA, the reality of local pizza variance hit me. I could not find a pizza that had the same taste and consistency of the pizza I grew up with. Distraught, I realized I would have to take things into my own hands, literally! I began researching pizza and trying to understand how to reproduce characteristics of pizza that I love (chewy crumb with a lightly crisp crust, etc). I make pizza at home, now, and I seem to like my own recipes better than most pies I can buy. Now that I am a dad, I love to make pizza at home with my children and pizza is more a part of my life than ever.
My goal is to be able to recreate whatever type of pizza I want to at home. I also want to find unique pizzas to add to the family menu. In particular, I would like to someday build a brick oven and learn how to cook pizza with fire. I’m not sure if I’ll ever make pizza for money again, but I’m pretty sure I’ll never stop making pizza…