2011 June: Five Questions

Gary Bougie is co-owner and executive chef at SLYCE coal fired pizza company. Rather than go with a more traditional oven and product, Bougie introduced upscale fare to this working-class neighborhood — with great results. The restaurant has earned itself a place among the region’s heavily populated pizza scene.

Q: Coal-burning is one of the least common types of ovens we see in today’s market. What made you choose this type of oven over others?

A: Our pizza is a blend of traditional Neapolitan and New Haven style pizzas. The first American pizzas were produced from coal-fired ovens. So, keeping with tradition, we thought the coal method would best support the style and characteristics of what we wanted to achieve.

Q: What’s the difference between coal and the mineral you burn, anthracite?

A: Anthracite has a much higher carbon content than bituminous coal, making it very eco friendly. It started out with the same chemical makeup as bituminous millions of years ago; however, as the country’s landscape changed, the excess weight and temperature imposed on the coal reduced the amount of harmful hydrocarbons.

Q: How have your customers received pizza that is baked outside of the traditional pizza mold?

A: We have received an overwhelming positive response. Our growth has been constant, and we attribute that to word-of-mouth advertising from our customers. We have limited production due to our oven style, so on Fridays and Saturdays we don’t offer carryout. This allows us to focus all of our attention on the guests we have in our restaurant.

Q: You’re considering a second store. What are you looking for in a new location?

A: We are looking for areas that have that “bustling downtown” feel. You can feel the energy when you walk into our restaurant now, and we want the feel of any town we are in to match that energy. The demographics of our customers are “foodies” that appreciate our made-from-scratch approach to cooking.

Q: So how does your pizza bake under this process?

A: Our 850-degree ovens create the unique characteristics we are trying to achieve in about a three-minute bake time. We only bake three to four pizzas at a time to ensure every pizza receives the proper amount of attention. Five seconds in our ovens can be the difference between a perfect pizza and a burnt pizza.

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