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When they told you in school that you could learn anything! You were rightfully skeptical, I mean anything? C’mon, it was made up. I struggled learning polynomials, how could I learn anything?!
Then I read Tim Ferriss’ The Four Hour Work week and I start to believe you can in fact learn pretty much anything, as long as you are motivated and can make a smart plan of attack. Or by trial and error, over time you perfect a skill (like pizza making) and each iteration you get better and better.
Human’s are historically very poor as estimating their own capabilities. Every now and then it’s great to set a stretch goal (or a BHAG) and see if you can surprise yourself. More often than not once you set a goal in your brain of doing something, you mind figures our a way to do it.
From Tennis and Ping Pong to baking and cooking. Life’s a little more fun (and humbling) when you’re learning something new.
I like the idea of our ancestors wanting to learn something, they wouldn’t go to “school” to learn it, no they would find the smartest person who knew it and would study under them. Being the “apprentice” on the job was far more important than learning the theory behind it. Just like our ancestors I like learning things by watching others and trying for myself. And YouTube is my teacher.
We take an iterative approach to marketing. Improving upon every iteration after launch. It’s a smarter way of managing your marketing strategy based on results. I compare it to making pizza. There’s no perfect pizza yet, just like there’s no perfect marketing strategy. Learning how to make pizza is very similar to marketing. There’s a lot of noise out there telling you to believe a certain thing, the best way to learn is by getting your hand dirty.
Only when you start to make pizza crusts from scratch do you understand what goes into making a truly delicious pizza. Personally I think they’re the 9th wonder of our world. It isn’t easy but over time it becomes incredibly satisfying when you make a pizza other people truly enjoy.
How to make pizza, or what I’ve learned cooking them over the past 19 years.
Step 1: Understand what makes a good crust. This is the start to a great pizza. Never underestimate the crust. When I first made pizza I didn’t understand what Yeast does. I mixed all the ingredients together and it wouldn’t rise properly, it wouldn’t cook properly, in the end it was a mediocre version of what a delicious crust could be.
Step 2: Making a better crust. Experimenting with how long you let your crust sit for, how much oil to add, using spices, using quick rise versus traditional yeast, honey versus sugar or no sugar at all. These are all variables you can test to create a better end product. Letting sit overnight in the fridge has been the best pizza crust I’ve made. Don’t ask me about the ingredients because I never measure. Roughly 3-4 cups of warm water, a spoon of honey and yeast. Then after it rises a bit you add the flour, oil, and spices. Again, I don’t measure, just make it so it smells like a pizzeria in my apartment.
Step 3: Creating a better cheese combination and helping the cheese to melt more evenly. Shredded isn’t always the best way to cover a pizza in cheese. Personally I’ve had better success using a combination of chunks and shredded cheese. Also using just mozzarella is a mistake. Provolone, Havarti, Gouda, all delicious on a pizza As well as Parmesan, Asiago or Feta sprinkled on top is a must.
Combinations of different cheeses make for a unique flavour profile.
Step 4: Making stuffed crust pizza. I know I know a bit overrated but it still impresses people who’ve never really lived yet, right? Try it, it makes you feel like a pizza god among the pizza simpletons you’re used to.
Step 5: Making tomato sauce from scratch. This is a gam changer. Start with oil/butter and garlic, onion, and mushrooms. Brown a little then add canned tomatoes. You can use jalapeños to if you like it spicy. Let that simmer for as long as you want. I usually allow for at least a couple hours. After two hours you can season it with what ever you like. I use fresh basil if you have it, oregano, garlic power, onion power, smoke paprika, and kosher salt. After all the spices are in, dump into your blender and blend into your perfect pizza sauce. The best part? If it doesn’t taste how you like it, you can change it!
Once I saw someone make pizza sauce from scratch I literally have never bought pizza sauce from the store. I always make it, just tastes better.
Step 6: Putting mushrooms on top. My business partner is a bit of a know-it-all when it comes to food. For being a skinny guy I rarely believe him. But every now and then he has these amazing ideas that make my cooking SO much better. Put the mushrooms on top. That way the juice in them evaporate instead of making for a soggy crust.
Step 7: Putting thinly sliced meat around the edges. Another recommendation from my tiny business partner. If you put thinly sliced meat around the edges of your pizza you’re treating your taste buds to a whole new experience. It makes you look forward to the crust, something no one does unless you’re a sociopath.
Step 8: Using a bit of cornmeal under and around the crust. This was found late in my pizza making career. There was always something about the Pizza Hut pizza I loved. Besides the amount of oil they used, the cornmeal around the edges and crust made for a completely different experience eating the crust. Definitely worth a try. I don’t always cornmeal my pizza but if I’m not in a hurry I always do.
Step 9: Using sesame seeds around the crust (called “Red Swanning” your pizza). Stolen from a new pizza joint that popped up in Regina. Red Swan as the call it does something unique with their crusts. They put sesame seeds all over it to create a delicious treat once cooked. Again, if I have time I will do this. Specially if cooking for others, they WILL appreciate this “Red Swanning” effect.
Step 10: Chopping basil on top of a finished pizza. This was inspired by the New York Pizza company that does one pizza at a time and still cuts basil fresh, just before the pizza is served. This not only helps with taste but makes you look like a professional chef not just a cheese eatin’ kid who loves pizza.
Step 11: Oil the pizza before it goes in the oven. Some nice olive oil will do. It may seem weird but trust me, this makes your pizza just a bit more tasty. I stole it from an episode of Bon Appétit where they’re trying to make “The Perfect Pizza”. Definitely worth a watch, see below…
Step 12: Turn your oven up as high as it goes and put your tray in the over as high up as it goes. I cook my pizza at 500 degrees and it cooks at the very top of the oven, allegedly the hottest place in the oven. It makes for a much tastier crust and browning of the cheese.
Like marketing, cooking is something that takes years if not decades to perfect. Having patients, getting feedback, and trying new things all the time are a part of the process. Trust the process.
I will never cook pizza the way I used to.
To sum it up. I’ve been cooking pizza for over 20 years now and it still makes me smile when I do something different that tastes a little special. I’ve never made the same pizza twice. Pizza is one of those thing that’ll never be perfect, we’ll always be able to improve upon a recipe.
It’s an analogy to life (and marketing!). You can’t study or even try to make the perfect pizza, because the second you finish that pizza, someone else made one better. It’s much smarter to embrace how different your pizza is and why people love it.
No one wants the perfect pizza, they want their perfect pizza. Act accordingly.