A Day at My Friend Derek’s
I’m “prepping” for tax season. Mostly that means I’m going through the motions of things I presume to be useful for taxes. In practice, I’m checking out the Analyze tab in Lunch Money (the MFD Income and MFD Expenses tab) to see how little I made in 2022*, pat myself on the back for somehow surviving, and then spend the rest of my 15 minutes smoothing out receipts.
In reality, a pizza day is a very long day indeed. As the amount of pizza per night creeps closer to 80 than 8 (which was the norm in mid-2020), the closer my sleep that night feels like I’m recovering from an ultra.
The Day Before & Two Days Before
To prevent the pizza day from being a 14 hour day of moving and standing, I get some ducks in a row:
Make dough (-48 hours): around 1.5 hours in a cloud of flour dust. I can do enough dough for 70 pies in two batches. A little more than half a 50lb bag of flour. Out of the fridge for an hour or two, then into the fridge for 40 hours.
Fold boxes (-48-24 hours): stamping and folding, stamping and folding. 70 times. ~10 minutes. Cardboard, because I have special 'detroit-style' 10x14" boxes shipped, is one of the highest costs per pizza.
Make sauce (-24 hours): I’ve started making sauce the day before solely so I have less of a mess to clean up the day-of.
The Pizza Day
7am: pull dough out of the fridge. Maybe go back to bed!
9am: turn blank boxes into my schedule for the night. Name and time and "thanks" on top, what they ordered on the side. Sort by the half-hour, and stack. (The goal: pick up the stack of 5:30s at 4:45 and start cranking through cheesing, saucing, and topping the pies.)
10-11am: cut and ball dough, oil and stack pans. I’ve gotten so much better at this in the past year, all with little hacks along the way. I use two scales now — you (I) should always be adding-to or taking-from a chunk of dough on the scale, not the massive hunk of dough on the table. (No wasted effort.) After the chunks of dough are either 525-535 grams or 320 to 335 grams in size, I ball ‘em up, plop ‘em in oil, and put lids on. And stack.
11-2pm: absolutely nothing pizza-related! This is the sit-down time I’ve grown to love. (Though not always sitting.) Either a run or a spin, sitting on the couch, or at the computer working on a side-project (resume-builder?). Occasionally I’ll need to run to do a Merlino or Restaurant Depot pickup, but I’ve gotten much better about planning out what I need for the week.
2pm: stretch all of the dough. At 2pm, though, I jump out of my seat and go into pizza mode for another 15 minutes. (This is the part of the process that makes me hate pizza-making the most, perhaps because it’s an immutable part of it: I have to stop whatever I was doing to go BACK to the kitchen. And if it’s skipped, it ruins the bake.)
3pm: Pizza Mode. Everything else stops and pizza mode begins. I feel like a machine built for one purpose: pizza making. The ovens, if they’re not already on doing a pre-warm, start heading up to 550°. If it’s particularly cold today, I’ll test out the stretch of the pizza and, perhaps, move each one a little closer to the edge. (If it’s not cold, I’ll test the larger pizzas and not have to do antyhing to them until the cheesing begins.)
Ingredient prep starts immediately. This often includes knife- and mandoline-related PTSD flashes, though I‘ve been skin-secure for 3 or 4 months. My eyes are on my watch and the repurposed (broken) Peloton screen I use as a big clock. (Thanks to John for insisting on a big clock — it’s now used all the time.) The time I’m looking for is 3:45: if pizzas are actively being prepped for the 3:55 insertion time, I’m behind, and the pizza night will be a mess.
3:45: I grab the empty pizza boxes and stack them directly in my line of sight. I grab 4 larges and 4 smalls (let’s say that’s the amount for 4:30). I throw 18 ounces of cheese on the larges, or 9 for the smalls. The sauce goes on unless it’s garlic or jalapeño bread. Pile on pepperoni or whatever. Slam those suckers in the oven at exactly 3:55.
3:56: Start prepping for the 4:25 insertion. Move the empty 3:55 boxes just beside the oven. Move the 4:25 boxes to my eyeline. Maybe I cheese a few more pizzas than I need to to not break the current task and waste time.
4:20: Typically the smalls have been out of the oven for 5 minutes, resting, and the larges are coming out now. I stack the pans; I’ll start cleaning in two minutes.
4:25: Start cutting the slightly cooled pizzas. Each pizza should hold its form completely so that picking it up on each side is possible without disaster. Interrupt this process to slam the 5:00 pizzas in the oven. Did I oversell and need to stack a few? Shit. Oh well. Keep it going.
7:35/8:35: Remind the people that forget they ordered pizza to come get their pizzas so I can leave the shop and go get some food at Tio Baby’s or Pacific Inn Pub.
1: While I’ve definitely taken a pretty laid back work ethic since quitting my other day job in March of last year, I pat myself on the back for the amount of Actual Work Days and my noodling-about days: I spent a lot of time on side projects, maintenance, rewrites, and new projects!