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The Pizza Chef: Canada doesn’t need another mediocre pizzeria

Canada doesn’t need another mediocre pizzeria


February 28, 2008
By Diana Coutu

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While pepperoni continues to be the most popular topping in the United States, Canadians are looking for alternatives.

While pepperoni continues to be the most popular topping in the United States, Canadians are looking for alternatives.
If you don’t believe me, check your local grocery store freezer to find delectable “chicken and sun-dried tomatoes” or “spinach and artichoke hearts” frozen pizzas. If there were not already a thriving market, the frozen pizza manufacturers would not indulge it.

Face it; Canada doesn’t need another mediocre, ordinary pizza place to get a pepperoni pie from. I like to think that we’re ahead of the curve at my shop, and for 59 consecutive months, we’ve offered a Taste of the Month specialty pizza. This allows us to test new toppings, sauces or cheeses and gauge our customers’ response before adding them to our printed menus. It also keeps our menu fresh and new; we can tie in a seasonal holiday and add pizzazz.

Essentially, we take ordinary and make it extraordinary. In fact, my “Havarti Heaven” creation that was a finalist for the 2007 International Pizza Expo’s Pizza Festiva competition was originally one of our Taste of the Month features.   I’ve noticed that the more daring the combination pizzas that we create, the more our customers rave about them.

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We brought in a pulled pork topping for our August Taste of the Month and it received such a phenomenal response that we kept it for September. We seasoned the pulled pork with BBQ sauce, added a splash of hot sauce to give it a little kick, combined it with fresh (not canned) pineapple, a dry-cured pepperoni and a cheddar cheese blend. We called it our “Sweet’n’Spicy Divine Swine.” It was as much fun to say as it was delicious to eat.

I’ve also found that the more unique of a name that we give these creations, the more interesting they are to our customers. Take our “Lip Smackin’ Libido Lustre Buster.”  It’s definitely a mouthful.

I created this pizza after reading an article in Canadian Pizza Magazine about the aphrodisiac effects of common toppings found on pizza. I loaded it with onions, artichoke hearts, green and black olives, oysters and garlic.

We cautioned people against sharing it with anyone that they didn’t want to be romantically involved with, saying we couldn’t be held responsible for unwanted romances because of the potency of this pie. People loved it!

Talk about funny – carryout customers who had never met before were joking that we created a natural alternative to Viagra … and there were some “Brokeback Pizza” jokes too. Plus I tied it in with the famous romantic month: February. I’m told that many water cooler conversations at the office heated up that month.      

Another creation we called “It’s Better with Fe’Dar.” We only used feta and cheddar cheeses on this pie, no mozzarella at all. We used our fire-roasted jalapeno salsa instead of marinara and topped it with spinach, light jalapeno peppers, sun-dried tomatoes and Cajun chicken. For the two weeks that we offered it, every second pizza we made was an ‘It’s Better with Fe’Dar’.

Recently, I was given a sample of a test batch of spicy red-hot chili pepper cheese from our local cheese producer. It was made for another client, but ended up being too spicy for them. We tasted it and decided that it should be given a “Lava Hot” rating and we created our “Pompeii Pie” to tie in with the extreme spiciness. Even if it’s not a big seller, it’s a fun and dynamic name and it gives people something to talk about. But it could just as easily turn out to be a hit, and unless you test it, you’ll never know.

Our cheese producer couldn’t sell this special batch retail, so he gave us a great price and working together we turned a negative into a positive. 

We work closely with our suppliers and frequently ask for samples to test out. They know that we cater to a segment of the market that is looking for new and interesting tastes. They know that our success is also their success.

I’ll bet that many of you have access to the same segment. So, what are you doing to capture their interest and pique their curiosity? Before all your customers go the way of the frozen, grab them back with an extraordinary creation with a fabulous name.•


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