I was invited to attend a marketing event for a new pizza franchise – called Crust – which has recently opened in the Subiaco district of my home town of Perth.
It was a chance to see the Head Chef of the franchise make pizza.
I often cook pizza at home, and I was quite keen to see how it is done professionally. But of course, I was also expecting to pig out on a lot of free gourmet pizza. I couldn’t lose.
So I rocked up, and was pretty impressed with the pizza bar. Brand new, excellent interior design, a giant kitchen behind glass. Maybe 50 different ingredients all waiting to be made into gourmet pizza while you wait. There was a crew of highly trained pizza technicians in identical uniforms, ready to leap into action, like a Formula One pit crew. All good!
I met the marketing person, Carrie, and then met the other guests.
Which is when I had the first of several shocks.
First, I discovered that I was in the company of several other bloggers – but I was the only one who was NOT a food blogger.
I mention this because, while I enjoy experimenting with recipes at home, my audience is my kids and my husband, who don’t have the most demanding of culinary needs. But food bloggers are critics with the passion of religious extremists. I love food, but for these guys, food is their WHOLE life.
Second shock of the evening – I was ridiculously over dressed for the occasion. When I was getting ready to go out, I must have sub-consciously thought I was going to a fashion event. So, instead of looking street-chic smart-casual, I looked like I had gotten lost on the way to a cocktail party in an expensive bar. Damn!
So there I was, in a pizza bar – a really new, shiny one, but a pizza bar nonetheless, with hungry food bloggers who were wearing jeans and sneakers, and I was in high heels and too much make-up. So I had even less credibility now. Great.
The bloggers sat down, and Peter the Head Chef explained to us all the cool things about the way “Crust” do pizza.
As he made the pizzas, including the dough, he explained how they have to put the toppings on in an exact certain way to stop the pizzas messing up the ovens, how the topping (if there are more than three) have to go on in a certain pattern to stop them mushing up, how the cheese has to be tactically deployed for structural stability, how they have gluten free pizzas, and how they have several pizzas so healthy that they have the National Heart Foundation “tick of approval”. They even have square pizzas, and deep dish pizzas. Very interesting!
And then my third shock of the evening came.
Peter divided the bloggers into teams of two, and each team was going to have to invent a pizza (including naming it) and then one of the team members would actually make the pizza – in the fully operating pizza bar! Right here. Right NOW!
Bah. I just wanted to EAT pizza. I cook at home everyday. I go out so I can get SOMEONE ELSE TO COOK FOR ME!
I was paired with Devan. There were 3 other bloggers in the room, all of whom were experts in food and cooking, and none of whom were wearing high heels. So poor guy, just his luck, he got me as his buddy.
We got to work, with 10 minutes to brainstorm our concept for a unique pizza.
We both love Thai food – and Devan is half Thai – so we decide to capture the essence of Thai culinary culture on a single pizza. But we wanted to put a creative spin on it, and instead of going with stereotypical Thai foods (like tom yum and pad thai), we went more for street Thai flavours. And so we called the pizza “The Streets of Bangkok”. I loved the name!
So despite the awesome pizza name, it all went down hill after that.
Devan “suggested” that I be the chef. And I agreed.
But inside I was thinking OMG what have I got myself into! I am SO NOT dressed to make pizza! I can’t cook with a TIME LIMIT, in an industrial kitchen, in full view of the PUBLIC!! CRAP!
I put on a brave face and off we went, assembling our competing pizzas as best we could.
As we worked, I kept looking over at the other blogger’s pizzas, and they looked great.
The foodies seemed completely un-intimidated by the hovering presence of Head Chef Peter. But I just kept thinking that my shoes alone contravened a million health and safety rules, and I kept flicking my big hair around my head to try and keep it out of the pizza. I could have taken out someone’s eye with it. Head Chef Peter must have thought I was such a ditz.
I did my best, but “The Streets of Bangkok” looked more like “Little Lumps of Dog Poo in the Streets of Bangkok, with Vegetable Scraps Thrown on Top”.
Peter tried to help me with some advice, but I still wasn’t getting it right, so then he just sort of (politely) pushed me out of the way, and did it himself. I don’t blame him. I was not worthy of his kitchen.
Fortunately, the time came for the three pizza creations to go into the oven.
When they came out, this one was judged by the pizza bar staff to be the best.
A visual delight, with subtle hints of seafood, and named “Paella”. Just what you would expect food bloggers to come up with. To my great relief, nobody mentioned “The Streets of Bangkok” ever again, and Devan and I avoided eye contact for the rest of the evening. (Only kidding!)
With the winner chosen, we were finally treated to an orgy of pizzas made by the staff at Crust. And it was sooooooo goooooood! Happy Karen! (and I even had coffee with the food bloggers later, and they were all really nice people.)
My review of the pizza? I liked it a lot. Good value for first rate gourmet pizza.
Crust is on 502 Hay Street in Subiaco, just down from the Regal theatre, towards the train station.