The pizza culture is more and more widespread internationally: The training and specialization centers for pizza chefs are subsequently booming. The École Française de Pizzaiolo, our partner School since more than a decade, has already opened 4 branches in France. Its tireless founder Eric Riem shared with us his story and his vision.
When glancing at your professional record, your passion for pizza definitely stands out. Where does it come from? What kind of training did you follow?
My passion for pizza comes from the Italian origins I have on my mother’s side. This gave me the right inspiration to start-up a business and I decided to open a pizzeria. It was 1993, I was 27. Over the years, I opened three more, all equally successful. I have grown more and more passionate about this profession and have participated in international competitions, including the World Championship in Parma. While there, I realized that I was good, but not enough to aspire to podium positions. So I decided to be trained by two world champions in order to obtain the necessary know-how and keep competing.
Your School has branches in several French cities. Which was the first one and how did it develop?
When I was at the championships, I saw that there was a School for Pizzaioli in Italy. And since I dedicated a lot of time to training pizza chefs for my pizzerias, I decided to set up a training center too. At the beginning of the years 2000 I opened my first school. Encouraged by its success, I founded the École Française de Pizzaiolo in Cap D’Ail first, then in Paris, subsequently in Lyon and Nantes. Today I manage 4 schools in France and I am about to open the next one in Lille.
Have you noticed any differences between Italy and France in terms of training content and techniques?
I think that the trainings I propose in France, compared to those in Italy, has a more commercial drive: in my teaching, I include the study of pizza menus, the work environment, the hygiene of the pizza, and all the commercial and financial aspects of the business. On a technical level, we cover the preparation of dough with both direct and indirect methods such as biga, poolish, and sourdough. We also teach Neapolitan style pizza and other formats, such as pizza on the pan.
Which are your criteria for the equipment of the premises and for the choice of the ovens?
For the supply of electric ovens, we relied on Zanolli for most of our schools; we also use the Comida mixers. Oven-wise, we assist the students in their choice according to their specific needs and to the kind of power supply they intend to use. We generally suggest mid-range products rather than entry level. For the electric ovens, for instance, we recommend those with a digital panel.
Which Zanolli ovens are part of your equipment?
We equipped the labs of our various schools with the ovens Citizen EP 70 double chamber and the Citizen PW 6+6 Digital. In my opinion, this model can boast the best price/quality ratio in the current market and is extremely useful for us: we can bake pizza in the pan, traditional pizza… plus it’s very easy to use! In addition, we recently added the AVGVSTO dome oven for Neapolitan pizza and I must say that we are very satisfied with this oven, which is as modern as it is efficient.
Can you share the first impressions about the AVGVSTO dome electric oven? Do you use it to bake any kind of pizza?
We have installed AVGVSTO not long ago. We propose it mainly for Neapolitan pizza, but it is suitable to cook any type of pizza: you just need to modify the parameters, for example by setting the temperature on 320°/330° C and you can cook both traditional pizza and pizza in the pan. The students are amazed by its size and by its look.
How has your educational offer evolved according to the shifts in the needs of aspiring pizza chefs?
At the École Française de Pizzaiolo, we propose a complete training to become entrepreneur or pizza chef. We update the program every two years, in order to better stick to the reality in the field and remain in tune with the current fashions, such as pizza by the slice and Neapolitan pizza. I also try to keep pace with the latest trends in terms of ingredients like flour, tomato, mozzarella, etc.