Q&A with Jay Falk
Caliente Pizza and Draft House
How long have you been making pizzas?
I’ve been making pizzas for 20 years now. I started to work at a local pizza shop when I was 15 years old.
Pizza is the greatest food on the planet in my eyes. It’s always changing and evolving. Pizza makers around the world are always looking for new ideas and ways to make great pizza. Earlier this year, three of us went to New York for 36 hours just to try eight new places. After 20 years it’s still nice to get new prospective on different takes on pizza.
What’s your favorite pizza and why?
New York style — I love a good thin and crispy pizza. It’s amazing to see, with the basic ingredients to make a cheese pizza, the vast differences from shop to shop.
How did you learn your craft?
I took an after school job when I was 15 and started by doing slices in a mall. A few months later, I was being taught how to make pizza. Here 20 years later I’m still learning my craft. Going to the Pizza Expo and competing was great to learn new tricks and see how pizza is evolving from city to city and from country to country.
What’s been your biggest challenge with pizza dough and how did you solve it?
There are always a lot of challenges with pizza dough. Gum line, hydration and fermentation times are ones that come to my mind at first. For me, fermentation time is my biggest challenge. I like to have between 72- to 96-hour fermentation times. This becomes tricky on the weekends when you are very busy and there is only so much room in the walk in. For us, its always staying ahead and making sure the days leading up to weekend we really stock up.
What direction is pizza headed in your view?
After going to Pizza Expo last year, I think pizza is headed for exciting times. You see people really trying new things everyday there. I see high-end seafood as possibly a new trend with pizza. I also like to see newer styles like Roman becoming so big. Five years ago I had never even heard of it. Now it has its own competition in Vegas. I work for a company who refuses to stay stagnate and are always trying to be ahead of the curve, so I’m in a great place to continue to evolve with times.
Any words of wisdom for other makers right now going through this very uncertain time?
It’s unprecedented times for all of us. The only words of wisdom I can suggest is taking it day by day. That could mean so many things, changing your staffing or changing how much you order. The big thing we are doing is extra marketing, just letting people know we are open even if it’s just takeout or delivery. The city of Pittsburgh has been fantastic in supporting local business during this time, and I wanted to say a big thank you to all of you.