Pizza Hut becomes Pizza Hot in PJ Novak’s pop-up chain
Of all the odes to chain restaurant food created by Hollywood multi-hyphenate PJ Novak and Los Angeles chef Tim Hollingsworth, the latest dip may be the most nostalgic.
Welcome to Pizza Haute, an official collaboration with Pizza Hut that was just unveiled at Chain’s West Hollywood home. (You can text Chain at 323-310-4642 for a chance to reserve a spot at the Pizza Haute chain on May 19, 20 and 24. You can get updates on this and future offerings on Chain’s Instagram account.)
Pizza Hut features three types of pizza: a triple-tip pizza (with bacon fat and thyme-roasted potatoes topped with steak), a classic pepperoni and a vegetarian Supreme, along with Chin Ranch dressing and an “Everything Pizza” seasoning blend. The dough is fluffy and ready, spongy and buttery (to use a few of the descriptions Hollingsworth offers) like all your Pizza Hut memories.
They are the result of a painstaking research and development process conducted by Hollingsworth and renowned dough doctor Noel Bruhner (who helped esteemed chefs like Uri Menashe, Evan Funke, Jackson Culp, and Chad Colby develop the recipes). Even the very specific, soft-yet-chewy texture of mushrooms (cooked but not overcooked) in Pizza Hot may bring back memories.
Hollingsworth, who was born in Houston, has a formative memory of Pizza Hut.
“I was five years old, and there was a flash flood, and I was stuck inside a Pizza Hut restaurant for several hours until the flood went away,” he says. “One of my first memories of food was the smell of pizza in the old traditional Pizza Hut building in Houston. At Chain, it’s really about trying to recreate that.
So Hollingsworth and Bruhner (whose Slow Rise Pizza offers dough-making classes and restaurant consulting) mastered the dough-fermentation process and then came up with a way to bake the dough twice: once with just cheese and sauce, then the second time with toppings. The complex process involves a rational oven, a steel skillet and then finishing the pizza with butter in the bottom of a cast iron skillet.
The result is a crispy caramel crust fried in butter. (It’s a bit like how the legendary Dom Di Marco, who passed away last year, would finish his crust with olive oil at Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn.) Light, airy, and ridiculously rich at the same time. It’s a very cool trick.
Besides being buttery, Hot Pizza’s crust is cheesy around the edges.
“We want to make sure that the sauce comes around the side a little bit, and the cheese comes around the side to get that delicious frico around the crust,” Hollingsworth says.
Meanwhile, Texas-based brick-and-mortar chain Pizza Hut is making its own kind of extra cheese with a new cheesesteak pizza that features grilled sirloin steak. This flavor combination is also available as a hand-held Crunchy Pizza Hut Melt. Just like Hollingsworth’s food at the chain, Pizza Hut’s cheesesteak options are only available for a limited time.
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(Tags for translation) Pizza Hut