Pizza Chef Job Description (Skills, Duties and Career)
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Pizza Chef Job Description
A pizza chef (or pizzaiolo) is a professional pizza-maker. Pizza chefs are responsible for the entire pizza-making process, including choosing the ingredients and toppings, and cooking pizzas in a pizza oven.
Of all the jobs a pizza chef has to perform when making a pizza, perhaps the most important is preparing the pizza dough, as this directly impacts on the taste and texture of the final product. In order to produce a dough of the required consistency in sufficient quantities to meet production requirements or to feed the expected number of diners, a pizza chef needs to select the right type of flour, use the right amounts of water, salt and yeast, apply the right dough kneading technique and calculate the right leavening time.
Once the dough is ready for use, it is rolled out flat, formed into squares or discs and covered with toppings. The traditional ingredients of a pizza are tomato, mozzarella cheese and oil, but a wide range of other ingredients (e.g. ham, vegetables, mushrooms, onions, tuna) can be added to meet customer requirements, subject to the options offered on the menu and to seasonal availability.
Another important responsibility is of course cooking the pizzas. This is typically done in a traditional wood-fired oven or, alternatively, in an electric or gas oven.
Pizza chefs ensure that pizzas are done to perfection by cooking them for the right amount of time and at the right temperature.
All of the above tasks - i.e. kneading, rolling and shaping the dough and then topping and cooking it to produce top notch pizzas - require considerable technical ability, not to mention an eye for detail and attractive presentation.
In addition to making pizzas and other items (e.g. pizza bread, focaccia, calzoni, piadine, panzerotti), pizza chefs are also responsible for keeping their work areas (i.e. the countertop - usually made of marble - used for rolling out and kneading pizza dough and the oven area) clean and tidy, in accordance with all applicable food safety and hygiene standards and for carrying out routine maintenance of the pizza oven and any kitchen utensils and equipment (e.g. slicers for cured meats).
In some establishments, pizza chefs may also have a range of organizational responsibilities. These may include selecting and ordering fresh and frozen ingredients, selecting suppliers, managing food supplies in dry and cold storage, calculating the cost of pizza preparation and determining prices.
In some settings, pizza makers are also responsible for selling and serving pizza. This is often the case in fast food outlets (e.g. single-slice takeaway chains) and at bread and baked goods counters in supermarkets, where a pizza chef’s duties may include cutting cooked pizza into slices, serving slices to customers at the counter, setting up and maintaining displays, performing cashier duties and assisting customers with their enquiries (e.g. providing information on the ingredients used and about the products for sale).
Pizza chefs are typically employed in pizzerias, restaurants and takeaway pizza shops, as well as in hotels, cruise ships and other food-service and hospitality establishments offering pizza on their menu (e.g. fast food outlets, bars, cafeterias and canteens). They may also be found working in bakeries and at the baked goods counter of supermarkets.
Another potential employer are food manufacturing companies producing pre-cooked and frozen pizzas and other baked goods, where a pizzaiolo may find work operating industrial dough mixers and ovens.
Working as a pizza chef is a very demanding role. Workloads tend to be very heavy and are typically concentrated around lunch and dinner times, when demand is at its highest. Pizza chefs work on their feet for many hours at a time under high temperature conditions, with common risks of the job including cuts and burns. A good pizzaiolo needs to able to perform effectively and professionally under stressful conditions and should be comfortable working in front of customers since in many pizzerias, the work/oven area is visible to the rest of the restaurant.
The working hours of a pizza chef are often shift-based or part-time (e.g. a few hours or days a week, such as evenings or weekends), while many vacancies are for seasonal employment (e.g. summer or winter season).
Pizza Chef Responsibilities and Tasks
The duties of a pizza maker typically include:
- Preparing pizza dough
- Rolling out and topping pizzas with ingredients, as per recipes
- Cooking pizzas in wood-fired, gas or electric ovens
- Removing pizzas from oven and preparing them for serving or sale
- Ensuring countertops are kept clean and tidy and maintaining oven and cooking utensils
- Coordinating with kitchen and dining room staff
The duties of pizza chefs working as counter assistants in fast food outlets and at bread and baked goods counters in supermarkets include preparing pizza, operating the oven, cutting and serving pizza slices at the counter and performing cashier duties.
How to Become Pizza Maker - Training and Requirements
Typically, aspiring pizzaioli need either to earn a diploma from a catering college or else to have completed a training course for pizza chefs at a cooking academy, culinary school or other training institute.
The best courses provide a mix of theory and hands-on practice in an actual pizzeria, enabling trainee pizza chefs to acquire the knowledge they need to perform their role effectively (e.g. knowledge of ingredients, dough kneading and rolling techniques and types of pizza oven).
Course attendees also learn about food conservation methods and about maintaining work areas (countertop and oven), utensils and equipment in accordance with food hygiene and safety standards (HACCP).
Pizza Chef Skills and Qualifications
A pizza chef needs the following skills and attributes:
- Knowledge of ingredients, recipes and pizza-making process
- Ability to perform pizza-making duties without supervision
- Ability to use pizza ovens
- Reliability, professionalism and speed
- Organizational skills
- Communication and interpersonal skills
- Team spirit
- Ability to work under pressure in a hectic work environment
- Flexibility and willingness to work shifts, weekends and evenings
Pizza Chef Career Path
A career as a pizza chef typically begins with an apprenticeship or a job as an assistant pizzaiolo in a kitchen brigade.
As they become gradually more skilled and experienced, pizza makers may be given greater responsibilities, such as coordinating the work of other restaurant staff. Another possibility for career growth is to take advantage of the increasingly demanding and sophisticated palates of the pizza-eating public and to specialize in preparing specific types of pizzas (e.g. traditional pizza, Neapolitan-style, Chicago-style, Roman-style ‘alla pala’ pizza, organic flour pizzas, gluten-free pizza for celiacs, gourmet pizzas). Alternatively, a pizza chef may choose to broaden his or her culinary knowledge and look for work as a chef/pizzaiolo, with responsibilities for preparing a range of other dishes besides pizzas.
Finally, another professional development option for pizza chefs looking for a fresh challenge is to open their own pizzeria, thus allowing them to take charge of the financial, administrative and organizational side of the business, in addition to all the food-related aspects.
Top Reasons to Work as a Pizza Chef
A passion for pizza and good food in general are typically among the main reasons for becoming a pizza chef. The job is suited to energetic, efficient, dynamic individuals with an interest in the latest food trends.
Pizza-making is a true art form. Each and every pizza is the product of a pizza chef’s expertise and calls for a range of technical skills, including the ability to select raw ingredients, create effective pairings and accurately measure raw materials, not to mention a desire to improve and learn, the boldness to experiment with new ingredients and an eye for detail and presentation.
Pizza makers are in high demand all over the world, with the restaurant and food service sector offering a wide range of career opportunities both at home and abroad.