Slow Food Nation: The Pizza-Makers


Much has been reported (here and elsewhere) about Slow Food Nation. It’s safe to say that we may rapidly reaching saturation point. And while it’s all fine and good to talk about the what—who, when, where—it’s also interesting to talk about the how. As in, how are they going to pull this off?

I caught up with Nico Monday, a cook at Chez Panisse, who, together with Pizzaiolo chef-owner Charlie Hallowell, will be operating the wood-fired pizza ovens housed in the bread taste pavilion. The pavilion is curated by Acme owner (and baker extraordinaire) Steve Sullivan—in addition to the two wood-fired ovens (one of which Monday built himself) there will also be an Acme-quality deck oven and a collection of tandoori and other clay ovens. The pavilion will supply all the bread for the rest of the Nation.

Find Nico Monday at the pizza Taste pavilion.

But back to pizza. Nico and Charlie will be making two types—a margherita, topped solely with red sauce and mozzarella, and a sausage and rapini pizza. They’ll be selling whole pies on sheets of butcher paper and estimate that over the course of the three- day nation they will make some 2,500 pies. 2,500! “We figured it out,” says Monday, “and we need to have three pizzas in each oven at all times during the hours of operation.” To accomplish this feat, each oven will have four stewards: One to shape the dough, a second to top the dough, a third person tending the ovens and the baking pizzas, and a fourth to garnish, cut, and deliver to the front counter.

Let the flames begin: A trial run of Monday's wood-fired
pizza oven. Photograph by Eloise D. Warren

2,500 pizzas will require some 20 gallons of tomato sauce made from 24 cases of Early Girl tomatoes (the vegetables will be supplied by Riverdog, Full Belly and Happy Boy Farms); each day, the team will make a 250-lb. batch of pizza dough at Acme headquarters in West Berkeley (they’ve been experimenting with a new recipe that uses a high percentage of California-grown wheat). They’re also making 80 pounds of pork sausage using pork shoulder donated by Patrick Martin at Heritage Foods USA, and expect to burn a cord of wood (a cord of wood is about two full-size pickup trucks full) over the weekend. What Monday failed to tell me, however, is how many cases of ice-cold beer those pizzaiolos will consume during the 3-day extravaganza…maybe they can make a trade with (Magnolia owner and beer pavilion curator) Dave McLean?

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