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Naked enthusiasm for pizza

January 30, 2011

Pizza going into oven

The opening of Naked Pizza in Dubai – January 18th 2011.

It’s hard not to get excited about the opening of Naked Pizza (actually the self-censored N_k_d Pizza) here in Dubai.  The Twittersphere has been a-tweet with it for months, with tantalising snippets of treats ahead, whispers of how impressive the operation is and a countdown to opening (a tweet-up of course).  Then there’s Jeff Leach, one of the co-founders, who is positively evangelistic about ‘the worlds healthiest and best tasting pizza‘.   He replied personally within about a minute when I sent a ‘would-you-like-some-food-bloggers-to-come-along-to-the-opening?’  e-mail and simultaneously tweeted the gist of our conversation.  But, after all, it’s just another pizza delivery company right?  Well, according to Jeff they’re a social media company which happens to sell pizza.  In other words they are a very focussed and marketing-led company which is expanding at a phenomenal rate of knots.  There are 400 stores under development in the US, current plans include six units in Dubai by the end of 2011, and they’re looking at several other markets throughout the Middle East, in addition to  India and South Africa.

Naked Pizza Dubai opening

Into the kitchens.

Jeff Leach and Randy Crochet (the co-founders) gave us an extremely warm welcome when we arrived and Jeff let us poke our camera lenses into his kitchens while talking with huge enthusiasm at a hundred miles an hour. The kitchen was bright, clean and streamlined with screens showing the orders. Naked Pizza strive to make pizzas in less than 2 minutes, they then cook them for 5 minutes and 15 seconds.  Since opening, the average ‘out the door time’ for a pizza order has been 13 minutes.  From time of phone call (or hitting the submit button on online ordering) to delivery to customer’s front door has averaged 25 minutes since opening.

Jeff, an anthropologist who studies ancient diets and nutrition, spent three years developing the special flour and base to make pizza that is healthier for you; he believes that by adopting a sustainable business model so that they can rival the traditional ‘bad’ purveyors of pizza they can have an influence on eating habits that have led to obesity and other disorders related to bad diet.   No wonder they chose Dubai as their first place to launch outside the U.S. where 25% of the local population are said to have diabetes.

Jeff Leach and Randy Crochet

What makes Naked Pizza different? As understand it:

  • The health benefits of the special Ancestral Blend® dough that the crust is made of (see nutritional info here)
  • There are ‘no additives, preservatives, colorants or weird chemicals of any kind’
  • They make everything fresh and get it out superfast.

So the verdict from me….  I couldn’t help but admire the energy, intelligence and drive of the team especially Jeff who blogs passionately about digestive health, glycemic response and the urgent need to confront the obesity epidemic.  This sort of operation is exciting to watch and if you have shares in Naked Pizza I think there is no doubt that they will soar.

The scribble board in the office

A matter of taste

I loved the tasty crust and agree totally that we should be eating less refined foods – the dough is made of their special flour and left to rise slowly in a cold room for four days.  This means improved flavour and the need for only a small amount of yeast.  This is the method that craft bakers use.

The freshness and speed of delivery was also impressive –  it did taste fabulous very hot from the oven (I burnt my mouth).  The two ovens are hi-tech gas-fuelled – to ensure they can meet demand – and at 13,ooo US$ each they’ll have to sell a lot of pizza.    The margherita and the pepperoni served at the launch were extremely moreish.

But… in their zeal for standardising the quality of the ingredients, Naked Pizza look at what they can source locally very closely.  Jeff explained that they had tasted the local mushrooms (grown in Oman) and they ‘grew funny things’ after just a couple of days.  He looked at us as though we’d mad to eat them.  I personally would rather risk my health (a claim I would dispute anyway, I could find nothing about farmed mushrooms being harmful) than consume a single, slimy canned mushroom which they use.  I ordered an ‘Omnivore’ to take home for my husband.  I was very surprised that the olives used were the stoneless sliced ones, the ultimate, nasty, flavourless ingredient in my book.  The flavours didn’t balance that well – it was a bit of a hotch-potch but  then I think it’s the style of ‘more = better’ toppings served in America.  For pics of the pizza view Naked Pizza’s Flickr page.

In the kitchens

About getting Naked.

You may think Naked means organic; it doesn’t and Jeff is very clear that organic is not proven to be healthier and it would not be compatible with their business model (e.g. charging the same price for their product as their less-healthy competitors) and supply chain.  He raises the point that an Oreo cookie with organic ingredients is still a processed food, high in sugar and no better for you than a non-organic version.  I can see Jeff’s point here and you can explore his views further on the livnaked section of his blog.  On his stance on genetically modified ingredients however I differ.  His approach is the same i.e. whether the ingredients are GM or non-GM has no effect on your health.  This may be true but where Jeff and Naked Pizza rally against large corporations (sausage-making by Don Draper) and their persuasive methods of getting consumers to eat processed unhealthy food because of the high profit margins it makes, isn’t it a bit out of kilter to have no issue with GM which is driven by some of the most cynical and profit-driven corporations of them all?  The practises of huge companies who have owned the debate about GM, like Monsanto, discourage bio-diversity, and if they are allowed to have their way, maybe some of the ten grains and seeds that are in Naked Pizza’s special dough won’t be available in the future – or certainly not at an affordable price. Apparently Jeff has strong views on this – and so do I!

The big fast-food producers have woken up to the health concerns too, take McDonalds recent change of strategy for example.  But the NP team believe in what they’re doing at a grass-roots level and Randy Crochet says  “Nobody believes Domino’s and Papa John’s when they try to tell you they’re giving you healthier options.  That’s the invisible barrier against our larger competition trying to get into what we’re doing. We’re ahead of them, and we’ve got the rocket fuel.”

In the Naked Pizza office

Fellow foodies enjoying pizza in the Naked Pizza office

Overall verdict?

I would recommend this pizza for its speed, freshness and the delicious crust.  My daughters, enjoyed the pizza but said they still favoured the thin, crisp Italian-style ones we usually order.  I have written to Pizza Express to see if they use added sugars, transfats or chemicals (such as dough improvers) and while they don’t have pre-biotics in the crust they do offer a wholemeal version.  I’ll let you know if they reply, I’m sure Jeff would have tweeted the answer by now!

And the excitement about the opening? Well-deserved.  It’s great to see people with a passion and zeal succeed and Naked Pizza seems like a very credible David versus the Goliath of the food industry with a good product and thinking outside of the pizza box.

Naked Pizza is located in Marina View Towers, Dubai. To order phone: 04 453 4313 or via their website Opening hours: Saturday – Wednesday: 10:30 am – midnight, Thursday – Friday: 10:30 am – 1:00 am.   And of course you can follow them on Twitter! (Facebook, Flickr, foursquare)

19 Comments
  1. January 30, 2011 9:54 am

    Great Post! I like their mission and their energy. But, I was a bit shocked by the canned mushrooms and olives! Nevertheless, Jeff did say that it’s not “health food” but rather “healthier pizza.” Tasty, but not for every day.

  2. January 30, 2011 10:04 am

    Very interesting post, thanks very much. It’s good to hear there are healthier options out there, but it seems we still have some way to go.

  3. January 30, 2011 10:09 am

    Great report Sally – very balanced view and thinking inside the pizza box! :)
    Thanks for giving us the inside story.
    T.

  4. January 30, 2011 10:58 am

    Yes, also shocked about the mushrooms – let’s hope they change their view there – olives I can forgive. But agree, the base is groundbreaking and as a wife of a wheat intolerant husband, I can agree that the ancient grains are the way to go. Hooray for spelt!

  5. January 30, 2011 12:12 pm

    Great review Sally, I absolutely love the crust, it’s light, tasty and very earthy. I’m all for taking unhealthy and make it healthy through trial and error. Scoffed down about 8 pieces at their opening! Haha… now, where’s that gym card of mine?

    • February 1, 2011 7:30 am

      I was too busy following Jeff around to eat many slices. I liked the crust too.

  6. January 30, 2011 12:30 pm

    Great review Sally. Thanks for that. After GeekFest, I was wondering what all the tweets and fuss was about. Got my answer right here :-)

    • January 30, 2011 12:31 pm

      Sorry, the previous comment should read Mich and not Mixh looool!

  7. January 30, 2011 2:12 pm

    Generally everything that opens in Dubai, comes to Kuwait within a year, so looking forward to that. Till then, may be next time I’m there a good place to eat pizza :) Must say though, first I want California pizza kitchen to be here.

  8. January 30, 2011 9:05 pm

    INteresting post! If I see a naked pizza sign in my neck of the woods I will be sure to try it! Love a good crust above all and would get rid of the nasty olives and use my own!

  9. January 31, 2011 1:31 am

    Oh dear…canned mushrooms and tasteless olives? That’s worrying. Exciting venture nonetheless, thanks for the unbiased report!

  10. January 31, 2011 2:07 am

    Really interesting post Sally, thanks:) Not sure they will make it to NZ any time soon, but fingers crossed………:) Thanks also for your lovely comments on my blog, I appreciate it x

  11. February 1, 2011 1:56 am

    Was shocked about the canned stuff on their pizza too. I coulda sworn it tasted fresh, but I guess I have low standards there! Wish I’d been there when you guys were there, and I’m glad you’ve taken the informative angle for those who couldn’t make it to the event to speak to the founder in person.

    • February 1, 2011 7:26 am

      I suppose it depends on your definition of fresh! To be fair, the other vegetables were fine.

  12. sara permalink
    February 13, 2011 5:47 pm

    and btw that sauce by the michlen star is it made there? that is suppose to be tomato paste correct? but i think its ready made in the states…its not fresh basically

  13. sara permalink
    March 9, 2011 2:06 pm

    How Come people have to pay 5 dhs for delivery since this business is a business based only on a delivery model!!

    Also, I have not seen any communication about reason behind this charge.I mean that 5 dhs is suppose to go to the driver as his tip directly.

    I asked a Naked Pizza driver once about where the 5 dhs go to; he told me 1 dhs ONLY goes to him, while 2 dhs go to the staff in the shop, which is fair since they dont interact with customers, but the remaining 2 dhs go to the OWNERS!

    That is not fair for the driver or the kitchen staff,and the whole business would not exist if it wasn’t for the delivery so why should 2 dhs go to the owners!??@

    How do you explain this 5 dhs delivery charge?

    • March 10, 2011 8:49 am

      Sorry Sara, Can’t provide the answer to this (I wasn’t aware they had a delivery charge). Suggest you take it up direct. NP tweet and Facebook so you might get a reply this way. Thanks for comment.

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