The Jay Vogler Interview, Part 1
From the Pizza News Archives
Jay Vogler, is a master pizzaiolo from Vermont. His restaurant is called Pizza On Earth.
Jay has lots of incredible knowledge to share about pizza and cooking in general. Here is part one of our pizza conversations:
Albert: Hey Jay thanks for agreeing to do this interview. As you may know, "Pizza on Earth" is the motto of pizzatherapy.com. The first question I want to ask you is: how did you come up with the name?
Jay: Before we were a business, we made a Christmas card with a pizza on it and I shaped the cheese to look like the continents and we put pizza on earth on it...some of our friends said ..what a good name for your pizza biz and we sat on it for a year till we were up and running and the rest is pizza history.
Albert: That's a great story. Please tell me a little about yourself. Where are you
from? Where did you grow up?
Jay: I grew up in New Jersey but always summered in Vermont as we have a family connection here from way way back...I have a degree in Art / painting. but first went to college for agriculture and switched later...We move here in 1991 and started a vegetable farm...we also did sheep, chickens, turkeys etc...we were younger. We did wholesale organic vegetables to area restaurants and stores in our area.
Before we moved here, I worked for the Metropolitan Museum in New York City for 8 years as an art installer.. During that time I took all my vacations and went to France...Mainly to eat.. Near the end of that time, I went to France and studied at a 3 star restaurant on the Riviera and returned home to start a career in the restaurant business.
After a few jobs in the City and then some catering gigs, I went back to the Metropolitan Museum again...There I met my future wife and we talked about leaving the city. I worked again in a restaurant in New Jersey and then as normal, we never saw much of each other, so I quit and decided to be a house husband of sorts.
We got a gardening bug and I worked on an organic farm in New Jersey and then began to sell produce back to the restaurants I had worked at. So we decided to move and start a farm. Eventually we left New Jersey and moved to Vermont with no jobs and a plan to have a farm. My wife is a clothing designer and was able to find work with what became Champion Athletic Wear. I did the farm for 12 years till I was nearly burned out...Then one day we were thinking about building a clay oven in our back yard and we saw an ad for a "brick pizza oven" for sale, in the paper.
I called and it was an old Earthstone oven from a defunct restaurant. I bought the parts and we cut a hole in a tool shed and built it in...It was only for our own amusement at the time, but our friends loved the pizza. At the time we were changing the farm toward a CSA, where families come during the week to pick up produce, and we realized we had a captive audience.
Blessed be to Vermont, that we could get a home catering license, and so we got a license and opened pizza on earth. The first year we sold about 10 pizzas a day. We were only open the two days a week that the CSA was open. After about a year, the local press got wind of the pizza and did an article on us and then things started to explode...We went from 10 pizzas to about 100.
We got lots of local press over the next few years as well as a small spot in Gourmet Magazine and a little feature in the Boston Globe. We had to add on to our "pizza hut" twice to accommodate the people...
We don't have a restaurant license, so there is no indoor seating. We do have a few picnic tables for the summer now. Summer is our busiest time of year...well it is Vermont. We average about 120 pizzas a night for the three hours we are open. And as you can see on the site, we do lots' of other things too.
My wife has only joined me this past year as pastry chef as her job left the state. We have one person helping with the oven and just me and my wife...hope that gives you an idea about us....In growing up in New Jersey I had only not so good pizza in general. but eventually loved to cook them. and never thought that would be my culinary culmination after spending so much time to be a great French chef...but I love it..
Albert: I will assume from looking at your website, pizza on earth, you serve an artisan pizza, correct? Can you tell me how artisan pizza differs from other pizzas?
Jay: Yes, we do have I guess what you'd call an artisan pizza but with a slant toward the gourmet pizza.. Our main competition on in our style, would be American Flatbread,
(Albert's side bar: "American Flatbread is a Vermont pizza restaurant, located in Waitsfield, Vermont") so we kind of have to do the crazy toppings with the best crust I can do....
We always hand rolled the crust till I got such bad tendonitis, so now we use a sheeter...But we're always working on our dough to give it the hand worked quality. As far as the difference with artisan pizza, I can't give you a straight answer now that I've listened to Legends of Pizza...I'd probably be repeating what I heard or what I believe in. But it's definitely a hand made and personal product...we're all about local here...
Albert: Growing up we all have had memorable pizza that we loved.
What is your memorable pizza? Did this inspire you to get into the
Jay: I never have had a memorable pizza yet.. the biggest names I 've been to were John's in New York City, but I can't remember it much,,,,it was take out...and Fig's in Boston...didn't like the crust much. Other than that mostly ordinary pizza or my own. I hope to get to some better ones soon.. We are already talking about trip to New Haven this summer...
Albert: We can't wait to hear what you discover after checking out Wooster Street, in New Haven, and finding Pepe's, Sally's and Modern. Please keep us posted, Jay.
End Part 1...
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