June 6, 2019
Posted in: Culinary Arts

Pizza as a general concept has a history stretching back thousands of years, even though the pizzas of that time would bear little resemblance to what most people would recognize today. As a more defined dish, featuring core elements like a tomato-based sauce and cheese, pizza is extremely and enduringly popular across the U.S. and the world. Pizza is also often seen as a more casual food, something to serve at an informal gathering or to order when no one wants to cook.

Despite this perception, pizza has a clear, if small, foothold in the world of fine dining and haute cuisine. That platform may be growing as the James Beard Awards make a push to recognize pizza chefs, as Eater reported. Boulder culinary school students should consider how this food can play a role beyond the traditional pizza parlor.

A small pizza sitting on a wooden table.Pizza is a versatile food, one that’s ripe for upscale customization by chefs.

What is pizza’s role in the world of fine dining?

As Eater pointed out, the James Beard Awards have recognized more pizza chefs in recent years. While it’s still relatively rare for culinary professionals focused on pizza to win regional awards, Eater saw the recognition of Ann Kim, of Minneapolis-based Young Joni, as a significant shift toward recognizing pizza’s important role in American cuisine. Young Joni’s presentation, menu and desired experience for customers, evident from its website, are far removed from the stereotypical pizzeria. That isn’t to say neighborhood pizza places are inherently lacking – they fill a unique role and often offer delicious food – but to demonstrate the ability of pizza to perform admirably in a more upscale atmosphere.

Another example of an upscale restaurant focused on pizza can be found within Boulder and can serve as a source of inspiration for student chefs who want to see a more refined presentation and approach to this dish. Pizzeria Locale cultivates an environment it calls elegantly casual while offering white and red pizzas featuring ingredients such as creme fraiche, sweet corn, ricotta, seasonal herbs, mint and burrata. While neither Young Joni nor Pizzeria Locale are traditional fine dining restaurants with strict dress codes or high prices, their style and menu reflect far different types of pizza than those who only order from a neighborhood delivery place or national chain are used to.

A more refined pizza, one elevated to the standards of on-trend, modern dining, doesn’t have to be especially expensive or utilize rare ingredients to stand out. That said, moving a few steps beyond the most traditional types of cheese, sauce, dough and toppings can do a lot to help a pizza stand out. There’s more room for chefs to experiment and use flavor combinations they know are pleasing without the need to conform to the standard of a red sauce, mozzarella blend focused on an even melt and the usual suspects when it comes to meat and vegetable toppings.

One major advantage of pizza is the nearly blank canvas the dough itself offers. As long as the final product can be cut into pieces and bears some kind of resemblance to the classic idea of the dish, there’s plenty of room for chefs to experiment. Students in our culinary arts program develop key knowledge that helps them pair flavors, build excellent dishes and put their own spin on a variety of classics, including pizza. To learn more, get in touch with us today.