Naked enthusiasm for pizza
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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)