The secret to making great pizza is in the story below and it only took me 65-years to figure it out. And you know what? I wish that I had kept that secret to myself. I better start at the beginning.
My home is in north central Thailand in an area many people would call the boonies. My wife (Dee) and I live on the outskirts of the village that she grew up in. The community is mostly comprised of farmers and various Mom & Pop kind of shops. I’ve lived here for years and have most of the comforts that anybody living in America would have. But what it ain’t got, is pizza.
Growing up in rural America a trip to Pizza Hut was a rare and special occasion. If memory serves me correct it was the only pizza joint around and probably expensive for the time. Plus, back in the 60s the local mom and pop fast-food places did not sell pizzas mainly because nobody knew how to make them. And cooking a pizza at home always yielded the same result. A soggy Chef Boyardee dough that looked like Silly Putty and tasted about the same. The toppings and cheese were usually the only edible part of the pizza. Regardless, we did the best that we could with what we had, but dinner never turned out like the ones at Pizza Hut.
Now many purists are going to say that pizza from Pizza Hut ain’t really a proper pizza and they may be right. But I do know that the first taste of pizza from my childhood still lingers on my taste buds. I’ve eaten hundreds of slices of pizza throughout the years and the good ones all have something in common. Crunchy crust.
I was perusing the interweb early one morning looking for pizza ideas, while enjoying a cup of coffee in my office and decided to attend YouTube University to major in Pizza Oven Life. Come to find out college hadn’t really changed that much since I went decades ago. Some professors were just plain nuts while a few lessons were a great experience. My favorite class has been The Wood Fired Oven Chef, even though I haven’t passed all of the tests yet. This guy is from California and built his own wood fired oven or what I simply call a pizza oven. I ended up watching his videos about the process over and over again and eventually came up with a plan to satisfy my pizza hunger pains.
It took me a good month of scratching my head, cussing and mixing cement, but eventually an oven was made. It was not nearly as fancy as the one seen on YouTube, but the important part is that it worked.
Growing up on a farm in the states, my father wasn’t much for small talk. Instead, he would just say stuff like “Poor people have poor ways, now quit complaining and get to work.” Back then I hated hearing those words and yet today, I live by them.
So, let’s build a pizza oven. The budget was set at B10,000 or a little over $300 along with using some leftover materials from previous projects. And as usual the budget need to be expanded just a hair and the final tally was a little less than $500. The oven was going to be placed where the original BBQ grill was built years ago. My thinking was to use the basic shape and build from there. But first the roof needed to be extended to cover the oven.
Three debates arose as the oven began to rise.
Buy cheap plain bricks. Cannot.
House insulation? It should work.
The flue goes in the back. No, it actually goes in the front of the oven.
It can be difficult to look confident when one does not know what they’re doing, but luckily, I pulled it off and construction continued. On most of my DIY projects, Jaew and her husband invariably end up helping out with the hard bits. It does help me out and it also helps them out. D&G pays a decent daily wage for Thailand and yet it is extremely tough to find good help. But then again mixing cement and picking up and putting down bricks ain’t exactly a lot of fun. But I believe that a good mix of manual labor is good for the mind and try to do as much as possible.
I honestly think the world would be a better place if more people would simply get their hands dirty. Anymore it seems a lot of folks sure like to tear stuff up but they don’t know how to build much of anything other than chaos.
This project took some time. I kept placing the bricks, granite tops and door template until everything was figured out. My wife (Dee) kept asking if I knew what I was doing. The foundation for the dome was tough to figure out. Initially, I tried to use Geometry to figure out the dimensions but ending up using kite string. Eight years of higher education down the drain. The problem was the big hole that the half circle shape left. Too big and expensive to fill with concrete, so I scoured the landscape looking for appropriate fill-in materials.
Archaeologists in the future are going to have a Bonanza if they ever explore D&G. This is what they might write about their findings. Cavemen living in 2020 apparently used broken kites, large plastic water bottles, rusty dog food cans, sand and broken bricks to construct a fairly crude oven.
Dee and I learned how to make pizza dough and finally I was able to eat a long-awaited culinary delight. My anchovy pizza. Only one to be exact and then the entrepreneurial monster took over. It wasn’t me; it was Dee. She wanted to make and sell pizzas to local villagers. I thought the idea was plumb crazy. My thinking was that people around here eat Thai food and they’re not going to pay B279 or $8 bucks for this homemade delight. Turns out, I was wrong.
Now let’s combine current events and talks of gloom and recession with the entrepreneurial spirit and making pizzas. First off, the Thai government got mad at Facebook about some political posts and said that a lawsuit could be upcoming. The officials even went so far as to say that they might block this popular website from Thailand. But I doubt that it will ever happen simply because the majority of Thais use Facebook on a seemingly constant basis and would revolt if it was taken away.
Instead of worrying about the government, the pandemic or countries collapsing, Dee kept taking steps forward. Her and the pizza gang of four began with free posts on Facebook about their style of pizza all with a taste of Thai. Dee and her team worked out all of the kinks and decided to open on Friday and Saturday to the public. They sold 37 pizzas. In the boonies of Thailand. I was shocked.
In a regular oven, pizzas might take up to 20 minutes to bake and still not be crunchy. But in a wood fired pizza oven, it only takes a couple of minutes to cook. Why? A wood fired pizza oven can easily reach the desired temperature of 700°F that helps creates the perfect crust.
I’ve created a monster. George’s Pizza is now open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Last weekend a little over 400 pizzas were made and sold. Our pizza joint out in the boonies has been featured on the national news, newspapers, celebrity vloggers and shared on Facebook literally thousands of times.
All I wanted to begin with was a pizza. Preferably a thin crust topped with anchovies, onions and extra cheese. That’s all I wanted. This personal story illustrates why some people make money and others don’t. My original goal was to make a pizza just for me. Obviously, I ain’t much of an entrepreneur. On the other hand, Dee has turned into an entrepreneurial monster…