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“I do wood-fired pizza in a pan,” Rich Hohenbrink, founder of Party Pizza Chef, says while cutting a piping-hot pie into slices. He’s just finished making a half-and-half pizza (half with hot and sweet veggie sausage, sautéed onions, and mushrooms; and half with smoked salmon, and green onions) over a portable butane stove in the 5280 kitchen.
If that sounds unconventional, it is. But when you’re in the oil and gas industry and the market tanks, you’ve get creative. And that’s just what Hohenbrink, who lost his job with Daxton Irving in December, has done. A few months ago, he began baking bread in his apartment; then he turned to pizza dough. Inspired by his “spirit guide,” professional chef and cookbook author J. Kenji López-Alt, Hohenbrink began cooking pizza over a single-burner butane stove. He debuted this odd-ball technique at a New Year’s Eve party and has since formed a catering company and launched a Kickstarter campaign.
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I was skeptical of the process—until I watched Hohenbrink in action. He fired up the burner and put a cast-iron skillet over the flame. When it was sufficiently heated, Hohenbrink placed a rolled-out round of pizza dough in the pan and let it cook. He flipped the dough and then began building the pizza: vegan tomato sauce, mozzarella, and toppings. Once assembled, Hohenbrink charred the top and melted the cheese with two kitchen torches (pictured). That pizza, which was thin-crusted with a sturdy shelf and a blistered crust, took no more than 10 minutes. It was devoured almost instantly.
Party Pizza Chef is more than just pizza though, it’s a show, it’s kitchen entertainment that I can see working at an event like a baby shower, a family get-together, or a catered dinner. And that’s what Hohenbrink is after. His plan (not to mention his Kickstarter run, which ends tonight at 6:30 p.m.) is to turn Party Pizza into a full-time private party catering gig. Homemade pizza and a party all in one, what’s not to like?
Editor’s Note: On Wednesday, March 16, Hohenbrink successfully met his Party Pizza Chef Kickstarter campaign goal of $10,000.