Founded in 2010, Fist of Flour Pizza Company is all about keeping it Local, fresh and tasty. I make wood-fired gourmet pizzas, wherever I can. I built my first pizza oven at the end of 2009, in the backyard, right off the kitchen, so I could hone my craft and figure out how to take this idea to the streets. I’ve been testing and modifying my recipes for the sauces and dough I use for a long time, and after two years of focused energy, I believe I have a successful formula. I admit I do not adhere to any one particular style of Pizza making, but apply my own methods of cooking with Fire at 800-1000° to create an exceptional product at any outdoor location or event, any time of year.
As of September of 2010, the mobile rig was completed, and now we are on the streets and parking lots of Oakland and the East bay, bringin the heat to a neighborhood near you. In short, I hand built and mounted a pizza oven to a trailer, added the tiniest NSA Approved three-compartment sink you’ve ever seen and had a stainless kitchenette fabricated on the back of the beast. I’ve added a couple prep surfaces to the front of the trailer, 12V battery power for Nighttime lighting, and a 10×10 fireproof (naturally) canopy for Any kind of weather the west coast can throw down! I even found myself a really nice Bio-Diesel Ford Short Bus to tow it all around town!
I am currently and actively seeking new places to throw pizza parties, and new gigs are always popping up, so Join the mailing list here for the latest information on the mobile unit and upcoming events.
But who am I? My name is James, and I love pizza, straight up. always have, and always will. Those of you who already know me, know this to be quite true, some may call it an obsession. An obsession that started in my brain when I was very young. Born a bay-area native, some of my earliest memories and connections to pizza arose out of my hometown Pizzeria, Village Pizza, at the Carlmont Village, Belmont CA. Located just across the street from my grade school, Village Pizza would intertwine itself with the after-school and post-game parties, filling my brain with a love for hand-tossed, never frozen dough, fresh ingredients, and that taste of a well seasoned pizza oven. I remember being taken to Pasquale’s Pizza in the inner Sunset when I was 6 years old. Watching them make the pies was sooo exciting, I think it triggered something deep in my subconscious. I just knew that that was IT! they had a spot where you could watch it all happen, and I believe I stood there for a long time, gazing…
That same year I had my first Pizza party at Pizza and Pipes in the Serramonte shopping area, Daly City. Oh man, what a gimmick! Of course there were other larger chain-establishments in my youth, like a lot of young video game heads, I had to go to Chuck E Cheese’s for at least 4 birthday parties in a row after Pizza and Pipes closed down. It was Pizza, Pizza, Pizza all the time. Like any normal suburban teen, I tried all the chains, and then, near the end of my college experience, as if some odd twist of fate swooped me up, I had a chance to travel to Italy, to the homeland. I sampled everything I could find, and the lust for thin crust and simple ingredients ignited my heart. The crappy, frozen cardboard stuff was out, my tastes evolved and I never went back.
I’ve since tried pies all over the west coast, a little in the east coast, some spots in between, heck, I’ve tried a form of pizza in Darjeeling, India, and found an amazing Italian joint in Nairobi, Kenya that made all their breads and pastas by hand (ex-pat Italians running a family business for over 35 years). Where ever pizza is served in whatever city I travel to, I will grab a slice, and let you know what I think.
When I’m at home, we do it my way. I am NOT a professional chef by trade, not even close actually. I’ve never worked in a restaurant or pizzeria, all of my experience comes from reading cookbooks, watching cooking shows, talking with friends who can really cook, and getting out there and doing it.
I suppose the seeds for this business started after I became an adult and got a working oven in our house. For about 6 of my 8 warehouse years prior to the house I’m in now, I made everything in matching toaster ovens. Once I had a kitchen I was excited to be in, I started buying pre-made dough balls at a local chain supermarket, because there is no good takeaway or delivery Pizza in East oakland. They were OK at first, but the results were so so-so, you know. Kinda gray in the middle and a little uncooked, the crust was chewy and not good at all. The dough wouldn’t rise, my oven wasn’t hot enough, too much sauce, and on and on it went. Crappy home pizza. I may as well get a Boboli. I finally gave up on those (and Bobolis for that matter), and one day pulled out the Joy of Cooking, and followed the recipe for pizza dough. In a few hours I had my first hand made dough ball. It wasn’t quite there yet, but it sure it came out better than anything previous, so I felt I was on the right track. I stuck with this mix for a while, tried changing things here and there, and got to a decent working crust.
One Christmas or birthday gift I got from my partner changed a lot for me, and that was the Cheeseboard Collective recipe book. The Cheeseboard folks are great, you should check them out, along with their offspring Arizmendi bakery, for some really good sourdough breads. I started using their basic yeasted pizza crust recipe and WOW. Funny how when you use a recipe from folks who do it all the time, it WORKS.
Well yes, I’ve just given it away, their basic yeasted dough is my base, but over the last two years I’ve added a few tweaks, and customized it to my particular needs. I’ve read a few other books on the subject and pulled from here and there. I mean, its pizza dough after all. There’s only so many ways you could go here. It ultimately comes down to technique, how the dough is proofed, stored, handled, and rolled out for cooking. That’s all me. So is the top side, the ingredients. I’ve been working on the Tomato Sauce for years, literally. I think my first attempt at following a recipe for tomato sauce occurred when I was 19. I’m 39 now. So for half my life I’ve been combining herbs and spices with all varieties of the solanum lycopersicum (look it up, yo!), and I have come to a conclusion. The simpler the better works best on the flat bread phenomenon from Italy and America.
Combine the above with select vegetables and meats from local producers, prepare with love and attention, and serve while HOT!
Pizza for the people.
Fist of Flour Pizza Company, February 9, 2010
(updated and edited January 26, 2011)
James Whitehead, sole proprietor, owner, and operator.