Preeja Aravind catches up with the chef who is also a champion acrobatic pizza guy for a quick chat
He is the mastermind behind the slurp-worthy authentic pizza collection offered by 1441 Pizzeria. He is also a champion acrobatic pizza guy, who has represented Italy at several competitions. Recently, he was in the city to celebrate the expansion of the pizza place. Excerpts from the interview:
Is this your first visit to India? Do you plan to travel through India this time?
This is my third time in India. The earlier two times was also with regards to the 1441 Pizzeria Project — for our initial research, creating recipes and training the staff. This is only a short trip for work and just in Mumbai. But, on my next trip, I would love to visit other cities.
What are the places you want to visit in India?
I will leave the details to Krishna, but I want to visit and travel through north India.
Where do you live, and what is your favorite dish apart from pizza?
I currently live in Miami. I have my own pizzeria; a brand called “Mister-O1”. My favorite dish is pizza, but apart from that, I love good, fresh and handmade pasta.
How old are you? When did you realize your passion for cooking?
I am 36 years old, but I think I was born with this passion. I started making food and pizzas with my mother in the kitchen. I am super happy.
What made you choose pizza as your signature dish?
Because it’s my favorite thing in the whole world, since I was a little boy.
What is acrobatic pizza?
Acrobatic pizza is an entertainment — some pizza chefs can do it. They flip the dough and entertain the guests while making the pizza.
What attracted you to acrobatic pizza?
The skill required is what attracted me. I can be a complete pizza chef mastering it.
How did the association with 1441 Pizzeria started?
Krishna Gupta, the founder of 1441 Pizzeira, got in touch with me for consulting. He visited me in Miami after that. When we spoke for the first time, I realized that he is serious and will be committed to create the best pizza, and I wanted to help and be associated with him.
What is different with the menu for 1441 pizzeria from its current selection?
Nothing. Everything has been selected by me, and I feel it is perfect for making great pizzas.
How is wood-fired oven pizzas different from the ones we get in the more famous pizza chains?
The wood-fired oven is very traditional and very authentic Italian. It which helps give the pizza a different flavour, a more unique taste.
Your favourite memory of any acrobatic competition event?
I remember my exhibition in Stuttgart, Germany, in front of 2,000 people where I performed. It was exhilarating.
How did you come up with the $12000 pizza concept?
One of my clients wanted something special and unique. He wanted me to make him a pizza using particular, very expensive and rare ingredients. Thus, was born the $12,000 pizza.
Why did you name that pizza Louis XIII?
One of the ingredients I used is the Louis XIII cognac (from the house of Rémy Martin), which was used to flambé the lobster.
Please tell us more about the collaboration with Krishna Gupta?
As I mentioned earlier, I have worked closely with the 1441 Pizzeria team. We have worked together in Mumbai to create the recipes, and train the staff—all this to make sure that the 1441 Pizzeria offers the most authentic pizza, using the best ingredients that is available locally, and also from Italy.
What would your advice be for a novice home cook who wants to make a pizza?
I would tell him to come to 1441 Pizzeria. But on a serious note, I would tell them to use quality flour and not to use any sugar. They should rest the dough for 24 hours, and then start to make it.
If you had only Indian ingredients to make a pizza, what would your recipe look like?
At 1441, we use only Indian ingredients, except for the flour and tomatoes from Italy. We have an Indian sauce which I love; so anything made in 1441 Pizzeria is using Indian ingredients.
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What are the similarities, according to you between Indian and Italian cuisine?
Both cultures have the passion to make amazing quality of food; both places have very diverse food items as well.
What are the major differences between Indian and Italian cuisine?
Indian food is much spicier than Italian.
Who do you look up to in the industry?
I am a pizza maker, not a restaurant chef. I focus only on pizza-making and I love what I do.
Who do you think has guided your path in life, and how?
My parent. They gave me the education and instilled the passion of food and pizza making. My mother, especially, gave me the freedom and courage to pursue it.
How does it feel to be young and famous, all because you cook a great pizza?
Thank you for calling me young, but I don’t think I am famous now. But I love making pizza. I am very happy that I can share this love and quality throughout the world.
Where did you learn how to cook?
At home, in the kitchen with my mother.
How would you summarize your experience in pizza making?
It’s my life.