By Julie Fitz-Gerald
Steveston Pizza Co. on turning pizza into art
By Julie Fitz-Gerald
Nader Hatami didn’t set out to break a record for the most expensive
pizza ever sold, but that’s exactly what happened in April when he
received an order for his now infamous “C6” pizza priced at $450.
Nader Hatami didn’t set out to break a record for the most expensive pizza ever sold, but that’s exactly what happened in April when he received an order for his now infamous “C6” pizza priced at $450. The pizza became the most expensive pizza sold in the world (without gold), according to World Records Academy.
|The infamous “C6” pizza priced at $450. |
Currently, the Guinness World Records website credits Maze restaurant in the U.K. with the most expensive pizza. Maze’s pizza sells for $178 US, says Guinness.
The 12-inch pizza, number C6 on the menu, must be ordered one day prior to allow for preparation. It begins with a base of braised scampi-prawn in a sauce Américaine (think a denser version of lobster bisque), with a bit of lobster added above the cheese, and then pizza is baked. After baking, Hatami assembles his masterpiece, fanning lobster out from the centre of the pie, followed by smoked salmon, caviar and a dollop of crème fraâche Add a final sprinkle of chives and the C6 is ready to enjoy. “It’s not the kind of food you make dinner out of, it’s the kind of food that you dine from,” Hatami said of the pizza that is now known around the globe. “You take it home, you open it up and it’s something that’s very artistic. It has to be artistic, otherwise, why do it?” When Hatami opened Steveston Pizza Co. in Richmond, B.C., six years ago, it was simply for a change of pace. After working as a chef in hotels and restaurants, followed by a six-year stint on cruise lines writing menus and working as a corporate trainer, Hatami felt the need to be land-based. Soon after, a tiny 387-square-foot storefront in historic Steveston Village caught his eye. The space was ideal for either a pizzeria or an ice cream parlour. Luckily for Richmond residents, the pizzeria was a more viable option.
From its opening day, Steveston Pizza Co. was a hit. “One thing led to another and from the first day that I opened it was busy, we had lineups. For me it was new, I’d never done pizza before, it was crazy!”
The pizza shop quickly became a customer favourite, with loyal patrons travelling upwards of an hour just to sink their teeth into one of Steveston Pizza’s unique pies. Hatami drew from his previous experience when creating his one-of-a-kind menu. “We always created menus that under-promised and over-delivered. The menu didn’t seem like there was much to it. Customers didn’t form a high expectation, but when they got the dish, the idea was to exceed all expectations and provide the ‘wow’ factor. Every pizza has to have garnish, design and uniqueness.”
The pizzeria was such a hit that Hatami opened a second location in Surrey/White Rock in 2010 and a third location in Vancouver last year. He attributes his success to the freshness and artistic flair that embodies each pizza made in his stores. “There has to be a definition for high quality. High quality cannot be a logo; it cannot be a label. It also doesn’t necessarily mean that you pay high prices,” he said. “One main rule that has to be followed is that, for example, if you chopped an onion today for your pizzas and you have a slow day, don’t use that onion tomorrow. If you have to throw a handful of it out, that’s not a waste, that’s an investment for your tomorrow.”
Thanks to a barrage of international media after selling his first C6 pizza, Hatami is now known as the man who snatched away celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s record for most expensive pizza ever sold. However, he is quick to point out that most of his menu options are comparable in price to other pizzerias. This is where the media frenzy becomes both a blessing and a hindrance for Hatami. “It’s good in the sense that our name is out there and it’s great for branding our product, but CNN and the others, all they talked about was the $450 pizza. It made it sound like all we are is an expensive pizza shop, but our average price is $20.”
At first glance, Hatami’s C6 pizza may seem like a publicity stunt, but after learning more about his philosophy of food and affinity for artistic expression, it’s clear that Hatami is more interested in creating food with flair. “The idea was to create a pizza that is beautiful and tasty and full of culinary art; then you price it. It shouldn’t be the other way around,” he said. “I did it for the fun of it. It wasn’t to buy a house off of it. I’ve sold only two C6s and eight C5s [priced at $128]; it’s not going to make me rich or poor. I thought the pizza was great and I put it on the menu. It doesn’t matter if it sells or not. It’s all about what you represent, what your menu represents, what your mind represents. It’s what your creativity brings.”
When asked if he actually expected to sell his C6 pizza, Hatami responds with a laugh – “Absolutely not!”
And what of the media attention? “You don’t expect it, but it’s no biggie, it’s just a pizza. It’s how much pride you can have serving it that matters.”
The future of Steveston Pizza Co. is bright, with two new locations set to open in the Philippines in September and December of this year. Hatami has a lot on his plate, but feels positive about what is to come. “I want to ensure that whoever wants to invest in our ideas is not after money but is after success and recognition. It’s true that a big element in measuring success is money, but it shouldn’t be the first element.
The biggest element is personal satisfaction.”
Julie Fitz-Gerald is a freelance writer based in Uxbridge, Ont., and a regular conributor to Canadian Pizza.