Community Kitchen Gets All Fired Up

Culinary Students Learn the Art of Wood-Fired Pizza

The Community Kitchen program at the Rhode Island Community Food Bank prepares low-income and unemployed adults for careers in the restaurant industry. Students spend 14 weeks full-time in the classroom (which includes an industrial kitchen) learning skills applicable to cooking, business and life.

Participants also get to explore real-life experiences through on-the-job training and site visits thanks to community partners like the Gilded Tomato in Rehoboth, Massachusetts.

Owned by Julia Sweet, the Gilded Tomato is a catering company that specializes in wood-fired pizza cooked in a massive portable wood-fired oven. Julia and her team generously invited Community Kitchen students out to visit the farm where they could learn and practice making their own pizzas.

Here, a good pizza starts with fresh ingredients grown right on the land nearby: tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and even less traditional toppings like blueberries, watermelon and cantaloupe.

Students were able to select their toppings then move on to the ovens, where they assembled their pizzas on wooden paddles, under the instruction of Sam Bruges.

Making wood-fired pizza has its challenges, even for our trained students. Paddles need to be floured so the pizza will slide off in the oven easily. Otherwise, all the toppings will slide in on their own (without the crust).

With sauce, the old adage “less is more” holds true: at ninety seconds cooking time in 1200 degrees, too much sauce will keep the center of the pizza too doughy while edges will burn to a blackened crisp.

Students made many adventurous culinary creations, from the timeless margherita with sauce, mozzarella, and fresh basil to a pizza topped with butternut squash sauce, cheese, eggplant, and corn.

Partnerships like these allow Community Kitchen students to experience culinary work outside of the classroom so they may explore specialized tools and learn unique skills they can apply to their trade. They also had the chance to see how a business can operate without a traditional restaurant-style kitchen.

Click here to learn more about Community Kitchen.