I love to host.
Having friends over is nothing unusual. There is a nice garden outside. It is where we gather up and have different types of drinks depending on the weather.
We drink red wine during autumn and beer during summer. The garden blooms during spring, becoming ornamented with a wide variety of colours belonging to flowers – roses, daisies, orchids and many others. They frame the garden and create an enjoyable atmosphere all around. It is no surprise that whenever my friends want to get together, we always choose my house. I make sure there is enough alcohol and water, along with food. After all, gathering up together means that we will stay outside for hours on end, sharing different fun and sometimes embarrassing stories about our lives.
Even though there is an endless supply of water, food is something that I take care of as well. They cannot, unfortunately, eat the garden flowers – not that I would let them even if they tried – so instead, I buy ingredients and go in and out of the kitchen while the food cooks. I tend to miss the important part of stories, though any frustration I might feel regarding that fact disappears once everyone begins complimenting me on my well-made food. Needless to say, their kind words strengthen my confidence and I find myself spending more time in the kitchen, experimenting with recipes and ingredients.
This desire led me to want to create my own street food business. I knew that it would not be easy – nothing was as easy as it looked, though I was willing to try because I found that I enjoyed cooking and making people happy with my food. I wanted to make other people, not just my friends, have a taste and hopefully earn
a living doing something that I enjoy. There were a number of problems, however, that I needed to fix before creating my service.
I began my research, spending day and night taking notes and daydreaming of myself being in such a position. The more I learned, though, the more I realised
that there were things that had to change in order to make everything easier. One of the first problems I faced was that of the budget. Typically, the pizza van providers
I came across had a large clay oven on the back of the trailer. Even though it does not seem like much, I did further research and found out that they cost around £10 –
£12,000. That is a lot of money to gamble on an unproven start-up. I backed myself to find a solution, however, such a vast sum is not easy to come by. I did not want my dream to go to waste though.
The second problem I faced was that of the size and time requirements. There was a lot of time that would be spent cooking the food – time that could be
shortened. After all, I did not want to make people wait for their food during parties. Thus, I spent many years thinking of how to overcome these two problems,
experimenting with different products and getting little to no results.
It was in the year 2017 that I came across the Ooni Pizza Oven (launched as Uuni). It was a small and delicate thing. Its size was a perfect fit and most
importantly, the correct power. It hit 400C in under 20 minutes, cooking a full pizza in around 60 seconds at its highest setting. It was a dream come true – I had
never imagined I would be able to cook so quickly. By the time I finished up putting each combined ingredient on the next pizza dough, the previous one was
already finished and had to be taken out. I was given a steady workflow with a machine that was both small and powerful, making my job much easier.
Of course, I was not instantly great at it and the learning curve was difficult to overcome, though I did not give up and kept trying over and over again. I came to realize that pizzas are more than just dough with sauce put in the oven—they were much more than that; they were a combination of tiny parts put together to perfection. Each part should fit like a puzzle; otherwise, the full pizza will fall apart.
First, I had to get the right type of fuel. I tried with wood burning but I quickly threw it out not soon after due to it being far too unpredictable and leaving a sooty taste. I replaced wood burning with gas that proved to be the complete opposite. It was predictable, functional and portable. Next up I had to research the dough – its shape, how to prevent it from sticking, whether to use flour or semolina.
All questions were answered in due time. Hard work tends to pay off, and with persistence and motivation, I got to a place where I was comfortable to progress. The next part I had to deal with was the actual pizza stand. There were many questions that needed answering, such as:
How large should it be?
What should it look like?
How will I transport everything?
How will I configure the equipment and everything else that comes with a mobile kitchen?
Eventually, I came to a conclusion. Most of my questions were answered with the size of the stand. I went with 2.5 metres square because it proved to be the right size—it was not too big but it was still big enough to be efficient, and I could easily transport it onto people’s patios and gardens. Later on, I added the banners, the tables and the oven, and created the perfect portable kitchen, giving people the chance to have a pop-up pizza anywhere they like.
Once I was done with the stand, I put my full attention onto the menu. I had to make it look as appealing to most people. I did not want it to be too fancy, but I
also wanted it to be attractive to look at.
Most guests wanted a Margherita, so that is exactly what I learned to excel at. The key to creating the perfect Margherita was getting the sauce right. My homemade sauce has 10 ingredients perfectly blended together, offering a delicious and herby taste. However, if someone asked me which was more important – the sauce or the dough – I would choose the latter. Making dough can be messy and unpredictable, which is why I spent a lot of time looking for the best dough I could find. In the end, I got my hands on The Northern Dough Company’s product. I have been using it for 3 years now and have never been disappointed.
This was only the beginning of my adventure.
Now, I deliver pop-up pizza to satisfied party guests across Cheshire and North Staffordshire.
Next time, I will share what I have learnt from cooking and serving thousands of pizzas.