Although a dough designed to have the right amount of crust topped with extra Parmesan and Bufala mozzarella cheese, some sun-dried tomatoes, a hint of garlic, fresh basil, bell peppers, bacon, ham, jalapeno and zucchini wouldn’t be an average customer’s #1 pick, I decided to custom make mine realizing how expensive it could get with all those extra toppings and how I’m not that average customer. Like I’ve always maintained, you need to live it like you mean it. After a wait of more than 40 min, the finely made thin crust wood fired pizza was right in front of me. Flakes and seasoning is not my thing so I grabbed one of those 8 slices of the 9 inch pizza and went for it. Before I could imagine how hot the cheese was, it was in my mouth. Damn, that pizza was gratifying. It is the single most mouth-watering 9 inch dish a person like me would appreciate to such an extent that he/she would soon have the opportunity to become a part of the business and soon the family that runs it. Managed by a dexterous chef and his cousin, the restaurant was named after the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily. Probably the only place in the Indian peninsula that comes as close as it does to authentic Italian cooking styles. Big chunks of wood, a good designed oven, fresh veggies, good meat and a secret recipe for the tomato sauce and you should be fine. Spent my first day filling the kitchen order tickets and people occasionally asking for a chilled drink, it all seemed easy. The weekends have taken their toll on Chef. I tend to help him when he needs it but he doesn’t particularly appreciate it. On an average we sell 60 – 70 pizzas on the weekends in a span of 4 hours and 30 min. That’s a monumental task when the oven we’re talking about encompasses 3-4 pizzas at a time. While the Chef is running around the kitchen all the time, I make sure the customers don’t get too restless.
Giving them a drink would be a bad move, there’s no food complimenting it. Telling them the pizzas “ETA” would be worse because now they have an expectation, ruining which would be bad for business. So I play music, usually classic rock, but then there’s always that one guy/girl who wants a different song so I let them plug-in their i-pods and play different songs, it works. Every now and then the Chef hits a small bell hanging off the ceiling, that’s a sign telling me the pizza is ready to be served. The first one month was fun, looking at people go like “Wow you run this place? good for you !”. It just kept getting better when I took some time off to study for my exams and when I returned, I started getting a small pizza ( worth 4 $) free of charge everyday after my dinner shift. It’s a wonderful experience especially when 2 French teachers from Toulouse come once or twice in a fortnight always asking you to entertain them. It’s been 3 months of work, and they still don’t get how funny my jokes are which is so ironic because they don’t stop laughing. I never stop trying though. I took the initiative to re-design the menu card and convinced the Chef to introduce new toppings in both the vegetarian and non-vegetarian sections, butter mushrooms and beef sausages being the most popular, giving us a considerable income. I therefore promoted myself as the direct assistant of the Executive Chef, making me the Sous Chef de cuisine, head of accounting and the restaurant steward and continued serving, because its fun.
It’s the holiday season and almost all the students left for home to meet their friends and be with their family during Christmas. For me and my room mates ( 6 in total ) though, we had to stay back for additional courses. Last night, it was pretty much empty from when we opened at 6pm all the way to 8:30 pm. I managed to convince the Chef to wonder if it was a sign from god telling him to rest for a while and let the sous chef take over the kitchen for his first wood fired pizza. That was when a doctor from a nearby medical college entered and ordered 10 pizzas to go, 1 with plain cheese and lots of pepperoni. The Chef was done with like 8 of them. I decided to do the next one. It’s not as easy as one might assume it to be. There’s a lot of science involved in the process. Two basic things that control the pizza’s end result: Heat over the pizza (Air temperature) and Heat under the pizza that’s cooking the base (Brick temperature). It’s all about controlling and manipulating the difference between these two and often turning it, so that the half that is cooking at a slower rate is facing the burning wood on one side of the oven. Maintain the overhead temperature too high and cheese melts too quickly leaving you with a cold and wet base. Maintain the brick temperature too high, your base is well done but with your sauce and toppings are tasteless. You need to place the wood on the right sides of the oven in the right amounts to get that smoky wood flavor on the pizza with a slightly burnt crust that compliments the cheese just fine. I started off messing up with the dough, too thin and the heavy toppings could make it stick, making it hard for you when you try to scoop it out. I recovered well though, the Chef was supervising me at all times. The base was turning out to be just wonderful. Soon the Parmesan settled down melting between the veggies and the meat making it a perfect blend of flavors. The one I made is called the “Farmer’s Pizza”. The only thing left was to grab that pizza box. I was so curious to know if it tasted as good as it looked. I let the Doc decide and fill me in the next time he comes.