As wood fired oven builders, we can advise our clients on various models, installations, custom designs, cooking techniques and oven management. Despite our knowledge base and willingness to share tips we’ve learned over the years, sometimes folks can benefit the most from talking with our Le Panyol wood fired oven clients first-hand about a day in their life, their own unique business models, and the lessons they’ve learned along the way. Today we are lucky enough to feature advice from Dawn Dennison, a mobile oven client, head chef, and owner of Crust Rustic Wood Fired Pizza in Nederland, CO. Here’s her fun, witty, and insightful description of their first day out with their Le Panyol mobile wood fired oven:
Farmers’ Market Debut
By Dawn Dennison, Crust Rustic Wood Fired Pizza
First, some Don’ts…
Don’t find yourself a mellow little farmers market, one that will let you work out the kinks, only to find that the day you scheduled to make your debut is the town’s Heritage Days, and the crowds will overfloweth.
Don’t borrow a friend’s tent without setting it up at least once prior to using it for real.
Don’t back your truck over your $250 dollar portable hand-washing machine (as required by the Health Dept.) as soon as you finish your market set up.
And finally, if you do back over your $250 dollar portable hand-washing machine, don’t drive over it again, this time going forward.
Fortunately, everything that could have gone wrong happened in the first 45 minutes of arrival at the market. Once we got that stuff out of the way, we, and the gorgeous hunk of wood-burning copper we call “cupcake” worked the market like we’d been doing it for months.
Prep for Saturday’s market started on Thursday, with the hand-kneading of 30 pounds of organic, Colorado-milled high-gluten flour. It’s true that I can’t afford one of those giant Hobart’s yet, but mostly, I really like the process. I can tell as soon as I put my hands on the dough if it needs more water or flour. I love that it starts out all raggedy, and by the time I’m putting it into the walk-in, it’s smooth and tacky, and the yeasty smell of it is making me crave a beer.
Thursday is also the day I decide on the four types of pizzas I will offer, and begin compiling the ingredients. For this market we served Pizza Margharita, White Pizza with local mushrooms and local spinach, Sausage Pizza with tomato and roasted red peppers, and one I call The Argentine — house-made chimichurri sauce, slow-cooked pulled-pork, wood-roasted onions and fresh mozzarella.
Not only was Friday a big prep day that included forming the 60 dough-balls I’d bring to the market, and portioning out ingredients, it also was the day of my final health department inspection. I suppose one shouldn’t book a whole month’s worth of work before getting the official OK, but then again, if you’re going to start a business you might as well get some business.
I passed, I packed, and I went to bed hoping that the dough I made at 8,600 feet above sea level would perform for me at the 5,000 foot elevation of the farmers’ market.
I got up at 5am on Saturday to pack the truck and make the 45-minute drive to the market. By 8:30 I had driven the wrong way down a side street, jumped a curb (on purpose) with my truck and trailer, performed some clever backing up, and destroyed a brand new piece of equipment. But by 10:30, someone was telling me they were eating the best pizza they ever had, I’d seen some old friends, chatted with people I didn’t know, and petted a lot of good dogs. We sold out of pizzas, made friends with the people running the beer tent, used the nice smoothie guy’s hand-washing sink and traded smoothies for pizza.
We only dropped one pizza. That one on the ground next to the cooler—we called it “Margharita on the Rocks.” A lucky dog walked by just in time.
Packing up was easier than unpacking. We accidentally drove right in front of the music stage on the way out. Fortunately the band had a sense of humor. And on the drive back up our canyon, home to our little mountain town, I was already thinking of my next gig—my first catering event—a pre-wedding party for an old friend. He’s marrying the health department inspector.