Women in Pizza: Canada Edition
By By Colleen CrossFeatures
Vancouver – Canadian Pizza Summit West in Vancouver saw an engaging conversation among dedicated and successful women chefs and owner-operators who are also industry leaders.
Stephanie Swane, publisher of Modernist Pizza and the Modernist Cuisine brand, led the talk. Swane and Alexandra Mortati, Orlando Foods, are driving forces behind the Women in Pizza movement.
A well-connected, well-travelled and well-versed pizza aficionado herself, Swane talked with two bona fide Canadian pizza leaders.
Suzanne Fielden co-founded with her husband, Dominic Fielden, the award-winning family farm-to-pizza restaurant Rocky Mountain Flatbread in 2004. You can find Suzanne in the restaurant hosting pizza-making parties or in a community garden growing food with families. She also started EarthBites Society to connect youth and families with their food. Fielden is proud that Rocky is a thriving part of the farm-to-table movement in B.C. and Alberta.
Diana Cline is an award-winning pizza chef, and partner with Diana’s Cucina & Lounge in Winnipeg. In addition to creating award-winning recipes, she is a consultant to other pizzeria owner/operators. Here’s a taste of their conversation.
What do you wish you’d known before entering the business?
Suzanne: Looking back, I wouldn’t change anything I’ve done because it’s wonderful to bring the kids up with and I’m working with the whole-food sector now and spending time with our EarthBites society now building community gardens and teaching kids to grow the food that goes on the pizza. I would have never guessed that would have happened. If you told me all the money pressures and the time pressures and the balance issues, probably I would have never jumped into it. But I’m so glad I did. And I love the business and everybody I’ve worked with.
Diana: Well, I started off as a delivery driver. And so it was like the first beginnings of being in the business. And then you saw other things around and within the jump to an owner-operator – that’s pretty big leap. But very much like Suzanne, it’s certain things that you only know when you’re going through it. Looking back, I can say, don’t be afraid to evolve and continue to prove your skills and learn. Also, written agreements are good, but there’s something to be said for the handshake agreements where people look you in the eye and you just know that it’s an agreement of integrity.
Who has inspired you?
Suzanne: When we first decided to go into pizza, we kind of landed on pizza to bring all of that together. My husband was visiting different pizza places and the one that really stuck out for us was American Flatbread. And they were in Vermont and they had a pizza oven in a bar that opened on the weekends. And it was farmed pizza. They’ve grown over the years and actually we asked to buy a franchise, and they said, no – go do it yourself. So that’s what we did.
Diana: Over the years, it’s just this passion for ingredients and always wanting to learn and improve. I took an Italian pizza certification course to, I went to the American Institute of Baking in 2006, to take their pizza production technology course and learn about different styles of pizza. I’ve been blessed and met some really fabulous people like Tony Gemignani, and Fabio, and just really good pizza makers in the industry.
Any hacks or insights about pizza that you would like to share?
Diana: At home in my home kitchen when I’m making pizza, I do love parchment paper. I mean, I like a nice pizza pan to bake on. I won’t use a pizza stone at home because I don’t have an hour to let the stone meet up with my oven, even though I do like a stone-baked pizza. But parchment paper gets a nice high, hot temperature, and then it’s got a less cleanup kind of aspect to it.
There’s not enough that can be said for room-temperature marinara sauce. A lot of people make the mistake of using sauce from too hot or too cold. You put that on your dough, and now you’ve got a gum line.
Suzanne: For me pizza has been a way to connect people with their food. And I think today, especially our youth, unless we really give them the passion and the experience and the knowledge to grow their own food and get connected with the earth, this the world could get a bit scary. Putting all of those ingredients and showing kids how you can put beets on a pizza or put kale on a pizza or all of these microgreens on a pizza. You can put snap peas on your pizza. Just knowing how versatile that pizza is. And they love it because it’s something they know and love. So it’s a real comfort. And hacks in our community garden. I mean, I could bore you for years. That’d be a different panel!
What’s your favourite pizza on the menu right now?
Diana: My Moosehead beer crust is crispy on the outside and then it’s nice and bread-like, soft on the inside. I like a medium-thickness crust for this style of pizza. Of course, we’ll make it thin, we’ll make it thick, depending on what the client wants, but I like to say medium-thickness crust because we make a North American-style pizza. So that’s lots of cheese, lots of toppings and you want to have something that’s going to hold it all together. A favourite pizza, Farm Boy, was inspired by the movie The Princess Bride and [the character was] bossing around this boy and so I thought this is fun. Let’s do pizza modelled after this and so this pizza has the Moosehead beer crest, our homemade marinara and fully cooked chicken fingers, strip bacon and caramelized onions and then it has mozzarella and garlic and chives, which we have already. We put crispy fried onions on top so it’s got the crunch of the crispy fried onions and the crunch of the crust and the chicken and the strip bacon together with the caramelized onions. It’s sweet and crunchy.
Suzanne: It changes on my mood. But a consistent one that I’ve always loved is our Farmer’s Market. For our dough we always use local flours. We use organic unbleached white flour, and we use a hint of whole wheat in it to give it a bit of flavour. And then to activate our yeast we use maple syrup. We slow roast our organic tomato sauce for hours. And then we do just a thin layer of or Canadian mozzarella. And we do whatever veggies are in season and from the local farmers so it could be beets, kale and mushrooms. And then we top it with our homemade pesto sauce, which is nut-free and cheese-free. And goat’s cheese caprino, which is pretty mild. So I love that one because it’s always delicious, whichever way it comes out.
Women in Pizza was started in 2019 at Pizza Pasta Northeast, founded by Alexandra Mortati, her former colleague Casey Derk and Orlando Foods, and has since blossomed into panel events and an Instagram live series. For details on how to get involved, visit womeninpizza.com.
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