Making Pizza With Passion and Knowledge
Millions of people in the world make pizza, but most of them only do it for a living-for a paycheck. They're no different from the burger-flippers in fast-food places everywhere-and you know how tasteless a fast-food burger is, especially compared to the real thing.
Just as there are makers of gourmet burgers, so too are there makers of gourmet pizzas. These people are a special few, and they practice their craft as much for love as for money. These are true pizza makers, not just people who happen to make pizzas.
What's the difference? True and successful pizza makers have two things that others lack: passion and knowledge. By passion, I mean an insistent need to produce fine pizza-to dive into the intricacies of the work and emerge a master of the art. It helps if you have Italian passion, but any obsessive drive will do. By knowledge, I mean deep knowledge-the thorough learning of someone who's read a thousand cookbooks and baked a thousand pizzas.
It took me many years before I was able to understand these two things, but now I know that they are the keys to success-not only in making pizza, but also in every other job on the planet, be it housekeeping or engineering.
Passion and knowledge go together: you can not have one without the other. And without both, you can not ever be successful. If you are both passionate and knowledgeable about a certain kind of work, then it stops being work-it becomes a pleasure and an honor. If the work turns out to be pizza-making, then it becomes a good living too, because skilled pizza-makers receive excellent salies.
Of the two factors, passion comes first. It's what allows you to gain knowledge-it's what allows you to sacrifice for your goals. You'll never succeed in the craft of pizza (and life in general) if you are not willing to sacrifice.
When I began my career, I did not know much about pizza. I knew a good pizza from a bad one, but so did every other Naples boy. The details of what made a good pizza-how the dough was made, why a wood-burning oven was used, what specific ingredients were involved-was all a mystery to me.
However, I was determined to learn to make good pizza. My dream was to be one of the best pizza-makers in the world, and it was that dream that pushed me forward. For my apprenticeship, I worked ten-hour shifts for free. The kitchen was hot, the hours were long, and the pay was nonexistent-but I persisted because I was well aware that it was the price of success. I was willing to pay it because I knew that my sacrifices would be rewarded-and they have!
Today I am a recognized expert in Neapolitan pizza: I travel the world to make pizza and teach others to do the same. I am paid to do what I love, and I help other people achieve their goals-it's a good life!
Now you understand why passion is the first factor. We start with it, and we need it to gain the other-without passion, you can never hope to gain knowledge on any subject. With passion, almost anything is possible.
Passion and knowledge: each complements the other, and both are important. The only difference is that knowledge can always be accepted, but passion is something you must already have within you. The only way to discover if you have passion for pizza is to start making pizza!
Armed with the two fundamentals, anyone should be able to make perfect Neapolitan pizza: two people who are equally passionate and knowledgeable will produce equally perfect pizzas.
How, then, to differentiate yourself? How will you make your pizzas unique?
It's easy enough, but you'll still need the two key factors. Passion will get you through the difficult times. When things are hectic, when you're truly tired, passion will pull you onward, no matter the obstacle. At the same time, as your knowledge improves it will allow you to produce better results. Pizza-makers need hands-on knowledge of each ingredient and process-the wood-burning oven must only be this hot and the Neapolitan sourdough must only be that texture. Pizza-making is not rocket science, but only because pizzas do not often blow up.
My advice is to forget about being unique: just concentrate on being good. With time and experience, you will develop your own style. Here and there, you'll find yourself doing things a bit differently. Little touches will appear in your work to separate it from the work of others, and later your pizzas will be distinctively yours. Just let it happen naturally: if you focus on quality then each little change will feel right.
Are the Key Factors Really Necessary?
Yes and no. If you're working in a pizzeria just so you can bring home a paycheck-and maybe a leftover pizza-then NO, you do not need passion or knowledge. But that's crazy, you might say. After everything I've said up to this point, now I'm telling you that the two key factors are not necessary at all? Let me explain.
Most people who make pizza do so only because the burger joints were not hiring that week. They could just as easily be making fries: it makes no difference to them. For such people, neither love nor learning is necessary. They'll make dough the way their trainer told them to-or, if you're unlucky, the way the laminated chart tells them to.
However, let's say that your interest in pizza goes beyond the fast-food level. If you're studying pizza-making because you want to be a high-powered professional-if your love for the craft makes you stand higher than the other doughboys-and if your passion pushes you to know not only how something should be done, but why-then the answer can only be YES.
Yes, passion and knowledge are necessary for success! It's clear that you already have the first one-passion-and that you're on the way to getting the other two. You're not just a foot-soldier in the army of pizza-makers-you're officer material, maybe even a hero in the making. Go out there and get some glory!