So you’d like to run a wood fired pizza business??
The latest in our series of virtual chats with fellow wood fired enthusiasts is with Simon and Sarah Pryce who run KernowForno in Cornwall (and occasionally further afield). We have lots of people coming through the cooking school with a dream of running a wood fired pizza business so we thought a chat with some folk who had been at it successfully for a few years might be useful. Here’s what they had to say –
MFD – so do tell us who you are, where you live and how long you have been running your woodfired pizza business.
KF – We are Simon and Sarah Pryce – we live in Lostwithiel in Cornwall and have been running Kernowforno our wood fired pizza business since 2013. We were just about the first on the scene in Cornwall but have seen plenty of other outfits join us since then.
MFD – What were you doing before you started Kernowforno and was that useful do you think?
Sarah & I had both spent the previous 17 years working for the RNLI, Sarah in HQ looking after our people and I was out on the coast looking after the volunteers and lifeboats at our 34 lifeboat stations in the South West. Before that I spent 12 years in the Royal Navy firstly as a Seaman Officer and then as aircrew in a Seaking helicopter and Sarah had had various roles in business. None of that was of any help in the making of pizza but we did have plenty of skills in other areas of managing a business.
MFD – What kind of woodfired oven do you have and is it your first? If not, what did you have first and is this one better or, err, not?!
KF – Our current oven is our second and to be honest I don’t know the make. Our first was a Four Grand-Mere which was great but we found it a little small and it had a sand and cement dome which needed constant attention as it suffered from being driven around the county. Our new oven has a 1.23m diameter, a fibreglass dome and a much bigger door. The bigger door helps with cooking but is also one of the drawbacks – it doesn’t retain heat as well as the older oven. The bigger area is great and we can get up to 8 x 12” pizzas in it at once.
MFD – Tell us a bit more about your oven – anything you would change with it, did you build it or buy it?
KF – We bought our trailer from a company called Dragon Ovens, now based in Suffolk. I learned a lot from our first rig and designed this one along with Matt the business owner. This one is built into a box trailer with four lift up sides and an awning – we can now set up and be ready to go in just 10 minutes, providing the oven is already hot. If the oven has been used the previous day it takes about 30 mins to get up to temperature and if we are lighting from cold about an hour. If I did it again I would make the box slightly taller – Matt is a few inches shorter than me and if I’m not careful my bonce suffers.
MFD – What do you think are the challenges of cooking outside where you live and do you manage to cook all year round? Do you have regular pizza nights at different venues or do you prefer to do one off events?
KF – I love cooking outside – when the weather is good!! We do manage to cook all year round and as I write I am planning for a wedding and a birthday party in November and Christmas markets in December but it can be a struggle when we are working in gale force rain. We do a couple of pop ups in the summer but our main focus is on weddings, small festivals and sporting events.
MFD – What wood do you use and where does that come from or do you use the O Sole Mio logs and if so why
KF – At the moment I am using Alder which I source from Logs Direct. They are a great company to deal with – I buy the logs in the summer when they are running offers but they hold them for me until I need them. They are delivered in 2 cubic metre crates and just transfer straight into the log store. The alder burns quite quickly but that suits our sort of operation where we can be cooking up to 120 pizzas per hour and these keep the heat in the oven well. Little known facts about Alder is that it was the best wood for making charcoal for gunpowder and also as it is rot resistant in water was used for the piling when Venice was built. We also use some beech composite logs – they are great as they have quite a large mass in a small package so don’t take as much room on the trailer.
MFD – What are the best selling pizzas on your menu – your top 3? Do you buy in dough balls or make your own – if so why do you make your own and how many would you need on an average event?
KF – I think our best sellers are:
- The classic margherita which everyone, but especially the kids, can relate to, with our homemade sauce and mozzarella
- Cornish Salami on tomato sauce with mozzarella – we buy the offcuts from Deli Farm Charcuterie in Delabole, Cornwall which I just slice into pizza size pieces. I am effectively using a fantastic ingredient which they would otherwise have to throw away and the taste is what sells this.
- Butternut squash which I roast in olive oil and cayenne pepper and serve on a tomato sauce with goats cheese, pine nuts, fresh rosemary and mozzarella. I think this one sells so well as it is different to anything people will have seen before and is interesting for vegetarians.
I make all our own dough balls in advance and freeze them and then take out what we need for the event. It could be as few as 30 for a private event but one Saturday afternoon this year at an endurance running event we cooked 400 pizzas.
MFD – Any disasters with your woodfired cooking – or learning opportunities!! there must be some weather nightmares??!
KF – Luckily we have never failed too fulfil the orders but we have had some close calls. The 2 main things that catch us out is the oven not being hot enough when we start cooking or being so busy the dough balls are not defrosting quickly enough to keep up with demand. This is known as dough anxiety by the staff and they know to keep their heads down when I’m suffering from it!!
MFD – What are your plans for Kernow Forno into the future?
KF – I think we have found our niche and are pretty happy with the status quo.
MFD – Would you recommend starting a pizza business to others and what do you think are the crucial things to know?
KF – I would but don’t be under any illusion that you are going to have an easy life! Know what you want from it and identify the market you are aiming for.
Thanks so much Sarah and Simon – great to hear your story and your advice; looking forward to seeing you out on the road next year. Happy cooking!