Well folks, its now Sunday evening, and I am tired. Really got my butt worked over this Friday down at the Oakland Art Murmur. I do hope you didn’t have to wait too long to try a slice or two at our debut performance as a fully licensed and permitted catering food booth facility. Or should I say Factory? My feet are officially wetted now.
Wow is alI can say to folks in the food vending business, wow. The endless line of people was something to be seen. Luckily for me, I had my back to the crowd all evening, while my practically virgin staff kept our little ship floating for 4 hours. Nadia had Front of House, and she was slingin slices with ease, considering it was her third time ever helping out on the front lines, she was swingin and slingin, clockin mad dollars. Jeremy worked the Turn or Burn station for his first time in the booth, rotating pies from Right to left, one after another as I was feeding the beast with Pizza after pizza after pizza. In addition to being an accomplished recording engineer and musician, Jeremy has prior pizza experience from his high school days here in Oakland, so I knew he could take the heat. But doing delivery for a national chain and doing some in-store experimentation and occasional cooking versus Live action realtime feeding frenzy with locally sourced organic ingredients in the middle of a downtown street, in a tent with a 1000° pizza oven? Yup, he can do that too.
My first big event, and it definitely went well. I did not have a chance to look up from my peels. Our rhythm was established by 6:45 I think. I was flying through the 48 pre-rolled dough balls I made ahead of time. I figured those would hold me for the first half. The problem I have is I really don’t like to make that many in advance because the dough is a living creature until it hits that 600° floor, and it grows in the proofing boxes. I honestly don’t know what to do about this. I cover them with saran wrap. I tried doing just 12 in each box, with plenty of room, and they were all touching and reforming as the “Blob” or something by 7:00. I’m pulling and stretching and then its all goopy over your hands, and well…you get a picture, a mess on your table to say the least. I think My water to flour ratio is a little off still too. Going from 12 cup small batches to 36 cup batches hasn’t been as easy as I thought. It cooks well though. I’m close, next 50 lb. batch will be spot on, just wait.
Let me say 45 minutes before 6 pm is Just enough time to set everything up. Just. Provided you start the fire somewhere else and pre-heat. I lit the fire Friday at 2:30 pm, once everything was all loaded up and done and let it burn till 4:30. I shoved the door in place, locked up the house, and prepared for takeoff. I was on 580 with a 780° oven and a truck full of dough and toppings for 280 people = My big freaking day. As the night progressed, I did catch a few glimpses of friends who rolled through, but no time to really talk to anyone but Jeremy or Nadia, “What do we need next? got room for another? We need ALL of them, Cold comin in, and Hot goin out,” like that for the next 3.5 hours.
I think the first pie hit the oven floor at 6:10. Not sure. I looked at my clock and it was 6:15, then it was 7, then 8 then 10 pm and everything was broken down, cleaned up, and back in the truck. Like a tornado in slow motion. It came and went. We heard some Awwwws, and Noooo when we announced we were done at 9:40 and there were no more available slices. We did what we could, and no more. Everything has a beginning and an end. I was no where near running out however, I coulda kept going but we have to clear the street at 10 pm and they mean it. So for next time, I need to be hookin up with an after party maybe? Move it down telegraph and repark somewhere? Or just go home. Yes just go home and relax. After all I have to get up at 7:45 Saturday morning to get my ass up to the Laurel district for the Farmer’s market.
I averaged 23 pies an hour roughly. that last half hour was a total blur. Running low on cornmeal, the dough was so damn sticky again, I was using tons of flour just to mop it up. Then I was having some release issues because I was holding back on the ball bearings (Cornmeal is the ball bearings of the Pizza Industry). Pizzas can get malformed or folded on entry when the dough is too sticky, and maybe you can recover it in 45 seconds, but you gotta just let them sit there, folded. I think we only lost two slices to holes in the crust. Saved most of the torn ones though by tossing them on sacrificial pizza trays, and letting them finish and stick again to the trays instead of the floor. Juggling a hot tray in one hand, a pair of tongs in the other or the spatula can get ugly. Staff get to eat the holy ones, and we sell off what we can if they get F-d up.
The very first piece of dough on friday was so wet and not ready to go, I got some big holes in it, got it all sticky, and then got it all full of cornmeal. This one wasn’t getting saved, by now the crunchy Polenta grind was well mixed in and I tossed it right on in. Sacrifice! That act perhaps blessed the rest of the session because to the best of my knowledge we didn’t have any trainwrecks all night, and just a couple torn pies, maybe three? Jeremy could probably confer. I only saw two sad slices sitting aside. Maybe the others got eaten, not by me. No time. Heck none of us had time. Time had us by the short hairs.
There’s two kinds of people in this business, the quick and the burnt. My eyebrows and probably my eyelashes are all a bit shorter now, and I’m pretty sure I lost a few on top, right in front. I could smell the singed hair as I stepped back from blowing in the doorway, whoosh came the hot blast of ash and smoke across my face. Sniff sniff, Oh damn, “Do I still have eyebrows?” as I turned to Jeremy, or whoever is working a shift on any given night. That phrase can be heard all too often. I can see my moustache in the peripheral, so I know that its good usually. I think the beeswax somehow protects it from the initial Blast, but if you think about it, I’m rolling up a two headed candle every time I Wax up. One of these days I’m going to have my Salvador Dali moment, and step back with both ends of it on fire. Wouldn’t that be a hoot? for you.