The Pizzaiolo

Choice 1 pizza

The day I became a “Pizzaiolo”, or for you and me, a pizza chef, started in the autumn of 1995, after spending five months in Galway; “Blue eyed girl” and I were coming back to Sligo. “Arnold The Hero” gave us a lift, the skies were very low like today and my mood wasn’t much higher. Maybe it was the fact that I was leaving the “City of Tribes” for another little bit, maybe it was the fact that he played a cassette of Mano Solo ( son of “Cabu”, one of the cartoonist killed in the Charlie Hebdo attacks). Don’t get me wrong, his material is great, just freaking depressing when you are hangover and rain is battering the Western land… Or maybe it was the fact that I had to find a job, no pressure so… A few days later, I saw an ad in one of the Italian restaurants of the town; bold as brass, I jumped in thinking I would have nothing to lose, I had no experience in the food business, or very little. I remembered what one of my peers once said to me: “ If you are in a night club, and you fancy a girl on the dance floor, if you stay on your chair, your chances are virtually none; if you get up your ass, and ask that girl if she would like to dance with you, your chances suddenly jump from 0 to 50%”. That is more or less what I did that day, and I got the dance…

The Garravogue – Sligo Town

The interview went a bit like this:

– Do you have any experience?

– Uh… No; I was a kitchen porter in this town a few months back though…

– Yes, but judging by your accent, you understand the concept of cooking?

– Sure, I guess…

– You’re hired…

And that was it folks. I was trained by two awesome guys, an art teacher from Morocco and a Pizza Chef from the Basque Country, soon to leave… It was my first real foot onto the food world, and I am very grateful for the opportunity! It meant a lot to the restaurant to have multicultural staff on the payroll, more than anything. I learnt how to make pizzas of course, but also was given an amazing opportunity to work with people from all around the world. A special gift.

And straight out of a Dino Buzzati novel, “Cacciatori di vecchi” or the “Old folks hunter”, where a young man starts a milicia to hunt and kill old people, before ageing and becoming the hunted himself… Where am I going with this you ask? Well, I was one of them people laughing a bit at the whole wheat and gluten thingy… Until I realised that I had become very intolerant to the latter ( I am talking real pain here…). The moral of the story? “ Don’t be an arsehole! I wanted to make a pizza that reflects November, what my favourite pizza might be. And this is how it went, with chestnut flour…


Chestnut flour, yeast, olive oil, raw milk and sea salt

For the dough:

  • 200g of chestnut flour
  • 20g of fresh yeast
  • a dash of olive oil
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 10 cl of raw milk

Let the yeast rise with a bit of warm water and mix the ingredients together; make a nice dough ball, and let it rest for a few hours, over night if possible…

Chestnut Flour dough ball

Some of the secrets I have learnt, apart from using milk instead of water when you live in a lime rich country, is that you have to cook your ingredients; from tomato sauce to toppings. Here is how I make my tomato sauce:

You’ll Need:

  • 35cl of Passata
  • 1 red onion chopped
  • 1 garlic clove sliced
  • a dash of white wine
  • thyme or “herbes de Provence”

How To:

Fry the onion and garlic together with olive oil, pour the passata and let simmer for 30 minutes. After 20, pour a wee bit of white wine. It should look rich like this …

Tomato sauce

For the toppings: you’ll need:

  • 4 mushrooms
  • 2 oyster mushrooms
  • 1 leek chopped super thin
  • salt and pepper
Best toppings

For the toppings. Fry the mushrooms and leek together, with sea salt and thyme…

Ready to roll the dough?

Dough-re-mi-fa sol- la si- dough.
Choice 1 pizza

And that is how I became a pizza chef folks…

Keep Well and Eat happy

Slán Tamall


18 thoughts on “The Pizzaiolo

  1. Ha-haaa! This time I am ahead of you! Alas, not a tasty home made one like that, but at least it’s a half-decent store bought Napoletana from M&S. But your recipe looks fab. Anywhere handy to get the flour?

  2. That’s a great story and your friend had it damn right …. sitting and watching never got the girl. Now chestnut flour is a big thing for me partly because my eldest daughter is gluten intolerant and partly because my little house in Cantal is in the Châtaigneraie so pretty much everything from the floors to the food is chestnut. I had not thought of trying to make yeasted dough with it (bear with me, I’m quite slow) but this is genius. I’m back in the French fold like a happy calzone next month so I will give it a whirl then! YOur stories always delight, by the way

    1. Thank you so much… La Châtaigneraie, I love it! Yes, it also gave a lovely texture. I used it in a quiche last week, very nice and wholesome. “Blue eyed girl” is very fussy, so I took it as a compliment when she liked it. 🙂

      1. This is genius …. I’ve used it for cakes but not pastry or bread – doh! I feel a whole chestnutty repertoire coming on (and I might even score a few points from the locals at village events – or not, they tend to regard my efforts with a suspicion reserved exclusively for English cooking!!)

      1. Thanks…! Yes, I know, I disappeared from “everywhere” for a while. I got off of all forms of social medias for a while, and now I have quite some catching-up to do, especially now that I can see you wrote quite some posts lately 🙂

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