Pizza. Ask any elementary school-aged kid and it's more than likely their favorite food and most adults would not complain having to eat it either. It is known around the world in one form or another and connects people from all walks of life. It is based solely on science. Everything from the mixing process of the crust to that perfect recipe for the sauce. And the toppings? Well, use your wildest imagination and odds are someone has tried to put it on a pizza somewhere. It is used in everything from kids’ birthday parties to world-class cooking competitions. But the real story is the chef behind the art of a pizza. Part scientist, part engineer, part baker, but all deliciously ingenious. Somehow, putting the simplest of ingredients together using the right equipment in the right way can make a masterpiece. We will be looking into the five best pizza chefs, their salaries, how to become one of them, and the equipment they use to make their works of art.
Top 5 Pizza Chefs in the World
It is no surprise that four of the top five chefs accredited with being the best pizza chefs in the world would be found in Italy, the birthplace of pizza. There is no real way to define the absolute best pizza in the world because each pizza is so different. You have the thin crust, the thick deep-dish pizza and anything in between. Every region of the world offers different quality and tasting ingredients so no two pizzas can be judged on anything other than popularity with their patrons. The chefs that have created the most popular pizzas on the planet are listed by Daniel Young, a pizza book author that has travelled around the globe gathering information on the delicious topic.
One of the best ways to learn something as intricate as pizza baking, is to observe. With master bakers as both a father and grandfather, it was inevitable that Pepe become one of the world’s leading pizzaiolos. His restaurant, Pepe in Grani, is located in Caiazzo northeast of Napoli, Italy.
Known globally as the ‘Michelangelo of Pizza,” Chef Bonci also had a young start in the business. He began his training as many chefs did, in his teenage years in restaurants. He opened his first restaurant, Pizzarium in Rome and it quickly earned him world-wide accolades.
Chef Salvo had the advantage of pizza being a family business to follow. His grandmother opened a pizzeria which was succeeded by his father, and eventually himself. It was the natural progression to do so. His admired legacy, 50 Kalo, is located in Rome, Italy.
Caffara started at the bottom and worked his way up in the industry of pizza baking. He began as a dishwasher and apprentice in an esteemed restaurant while still in school. This beginning allowed him to observe every aspect of pizza baking from start to finish where his love and knowledge of the subject grew.
The only chef known for pizza to win a coveted James Beard Award, Chef Bianco is the only chef to stand out from all of the Italian pizza artisans. A Bronx native, he began his career in food young as well. His restaurant, Pizzeria Bianco has become a Phoenix, Arizona staple.
Pizza Chef Salaries
Like with every other position, Pizza Chefs earn more as they gain experience. Someone who starts out at the bottom as, say a dishwasher, would expect to earn no more than minimum wage for the area. However, with all other positions in the food industry, you can gain a lot of invaluable experience by observing from a distance. The average salary for a pizza chef in the United States, including fast food pizza chains, is $11.34. However, if you are able to rise above a pizza chain and really make yourself stand out, becoming a premier pizza chef like the aforementioned, you can expect to make upwards of $100,000 depending on the success of your restaurant.
How to Become a Pizza Chef
Thinking of a career in the pizza business? Many of the best pizza chefs in the world started by one of two ways: they worked their way up from the bottom, taking positions as a dishwasher in a successful pizzeria or they came from a family-background of pizza bakers, often spanning several generations. A third option would be an apprenticeship or formal training. Any of the above routes are acceptable but all require excellent attention to detail and willingness to follow directions. Because making pizza is a science, a lot of patience and trial and error is also involved. If you begin as a dishwasher in an established pizza restaurant or shop, it is a must that you observe from a far. Do not simply watch what the experienced chefs and pizza bakers are doing but understand why they are doing what they are doing. If you put the time, effort, grueling hours and attention into starting from the beginning, you just may have what it takes to make something of yourself and your pizzas.
Best Equipment for Making Pizza
An artist cannot paint without paint and a palette. A carpenter cannot build houses without a hammer. Such is true for pizza chefs. There are several pieces of equipment that make pizza creation possible
A Pizza Oven
There are several different types of ovens depending on what type of pizza you are baking. There are deck ovens, brick fire ovens, convection ovens, just to name a few. Each produces a completely different final product. Some pizza ovens have even spanned generations and were hand built, brick by brick to become just as important to making that pizza as the ingredients themselves are.
A Pizza Peel
Regardless of what type of oven you are using, a pizza peel is a convenience tool that cannot be replaced by anything else in the kitchen. The long handle allows access deeper into the oven while the flat smooth head allows the entire pizza to travel from the preparation surface into the oven without folding onto itself. It is also used to remove the pizza upon completion.
A Stand Mixer
Some chefs swear by hand mixing the dough so they can feel its consistency, gluten development and moisture content. However, beginner pizza makers and many established chefs alike may find it easier and more convenient to make the dough in a stand mixer, especially when preparing many pounds at once.
Whether you are using a mixer or making the dough by hand, a baker’s or digital scale for measuring ingredients is a must in every pizza kitchen. Used for measuring out for the dough as well as toppings, a scale is essential for keeping the product consistent so the guests will come back time and time again.
A Pizza Cutter
There are several ways to slice the finished product and it all depends on preference. Some chefs will go with a simple pizza roller or pizza wheel with a single rotating blade to slice each pie. However, there is also a double handled blades to get the job done slightly quicker and possibly more efficiently.
To become a worldwide and well-known pizza chef, or pizzaiolo, it takes time, patience, and equipment, often earning little to nothing but experience in the beginning. With attention to detail, understand the science behind the pizza, the availability of excellent ingredients, and the right equipment, the title of pizza chef is not for the faint of heart.