2009 July: Ask Chef Jeff

2009 July: Ask Chef JeffQ: We’re opening a new pizzeria and still trying to figure out whether to go with a deck or conveyor oven. What’s your opinion?

A: Usually, a conveyor will be more expensive — but it will also allow you to do higher volume and put out a more consistent bake. A deck oven will give a great bake, of course, but you need a talented pizza baker to keep an eye on every pizza to make sure the product doesn’t burn or get served undercooked. There’s no right or wrong answer, and the type of oven you utilize is dependent upon your concept and the feel of your restaurant. Also, take into consideration where the oven will be placed.

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Is there a difference in Panko and Japanese bread crumbs, and what are they used for?

They are one in the same, and they serve a couple of different purposes. They are a coarse breadcrumb where the crust has been removed, leaving a completely white product. They give a really crisp coating when used as the breading to fried foods. Mixing them with regular Italian style breadcrumbs is something that I like to do to create the texture and profile that I’m looking for. The other great attribute of these crumbs is that they are very absorbent and can be used on your veggie pizzas to prevent serving soggy pizza. Remember, vegetables really water out during baking! Just sprinkle a handful of the crumbs on your pizza under the veggies and they will absorb the water, leaving a perfect pizza.

I want to get involved with local schools more. How do I approach them to team up with them somehow?

askChefJeff02Landing school accounts to provide pizza on a daily or weekly basis is an awesome thing, but it helps to first build a relationship with the local schools. Being a business partner with a school is a great way to start. It simply means you provide coupons or gift certificates for students to be used in a reward program created by the school. It may be a free kid’s pizza or two slices of cheese pizza. It’s well worth it, even if you’re giving away 500 coupons — because, nine out of 10 times, there’s another purchase for the rest of the family when the coupon is redeemed.

Inventory is such a pain in the neck. How often do you recommend taking it?

I agree, but it’s very necessary! If your actual food costs are in line with your projections and you personally are a part of taking inventory, then once a month is sufficient. It’s very common to take a daily inventory with some isolated items like beer, wine and steaks if you feel there is an issue with theft or waste. Waiting a month to find out that you are missing high-cost items is simply not a good idea. ?

Jeffrey Freehof, owner of The Garlic Clove in Evans, Georgia, is Pizza Today’s resident expert. Send your questions to: Ask Chef Jeff, c/o Pizza Today, 908 South Eighth Street, Suite 200, Louisville, Kentucky, 40203