The Pizza Chef: The Great Debate just got up-levelled
Diana ClineFeatures Business and Operations In the Kitchen Ingredients Trends
Move over pineapple, we’ve got something new to argue about, over, and over, and over again.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock the past few years, you’ve no doubt been exposed to the great debate: does pineapple belong on pizza? It’s such a highly discussed topic that no matter what social media platform you’re on, there’s bound to be a fresh post and a thread with highly opinionated individuals discussing their viewpoints.
I suppose it’s all good. I mean, if you’re wanting to increase engagement on your pizzeria’s social media pages, by all means, ask the question. The algorithms eat that up, literally, and soon you’ll find people from all over the world drawn to your page(s) to debate, argue, and possibly even insult each other over what really comes down to a personal preference. It’s one thing to like a composite of ingredients that create a meal, but it’s quite another to force someone to eat something they don’t want to. Or push someone to eat something they’d otherwise not be opposed to eating, but only if it’s prepared and cooked – or not cooked – a certain way. Unless, of course, we’re talking about some reality show, where contestants have signed waivers and agreed to eat whatever is put in front of them for a particular challenge and a chance to win big money.
In the past six months we’ve seen a new ingredient make its way into the North American food industry. It may be found in snack foods and also is available as a powder, presumably to add to homemade meals.
What is it? Crickets.
No longer reserved for fancy enrobed chocolates and candies, crickets are the new featured ingredient, as the world’s largest cricket-processing facility has recently come online in London, Ont. It’s said that its main purpose is to provide a new, sustainable form of protein for the pet food market, hoping to produce 13 million kilograms of cricket protein annually. It looks like it’s here to stay, and likely won’t be limited to selling to the pet food industry. Citing issues with traditional protein and the impact of livestock agriculture on the environment, crickets check all the boxes for sustainability. And, earlier in July, the federal government announced it was investing up to $8.5 million into the London facility.
It may surprise you to know that in many parts of the world, insects are part and parcel of a healthy daily diet. A few years ago, a good friend, Tony Gemignani, judged a pizza competition in Mexico and was presented with a number of pizzas topped with insects. He was a bit taken aback: I think it was his first time being served insects on a pizza. Also, to be fair, it’s my understanding that they were in their original form. Something so unusual for one person, can be completely normal and natural for another, and honestly, who’s to say what’s normal for whom?
I have friends from all over the world, and have had the experience of judging pizza competitions in Italy, Las Vegas and here in Canada, where some extraordinary unique toppings have been used on pizzas. I’m reminded of one particular competition I judged in Italy that offered many pizzas topped with different ingredients harvested from the sea. These are regional style pizzas, which are great sellers on the pizza chefs’ menus, although I don’t think the same ingredients would go over as well on my menu, in my part of the world. Not to mention, there’s a great cost incurred to keep those key ingredients fresh while on their way to Canada.
Coming back to the great debate: does pineapple belong on pizza? In my opinion it definitely belongs on some pizzas, but it doesn’t belong on all pizzas. That being said, I’ve yet to have anyone call the Cucina and ask for crickets on their pizza or a cricket-crust pizza. It could be super healthy, and, with the right herbs, spices and fermentation, it might even taste decent. I mean, look at cauliflower go. Maybe crickets should be available as a topping, in their original form: crunchy. Maybe they belong in a pizza sauce? Or perhaps, for some, they don’t belong in or on a pizza at all. Imagine all the algorithms going wild over this new, highly debatable question.
Diana Cline is an award-winning pizza chef, a partner with Diana’s Cucina & Lounge in Winnipeg. In addition to creating award-winning recipes, Diana is a consultant to other pizzeria owner/operators in menu development, creating operational systems and marketing to help operators grow their business strategically. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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