By Alex Koons
Here’s one word that I find fascinating: authentic. How does one make something authentic? What goes into it that’s different from anything else? And does it even matter? I used to spend so much time reading about—and listening to—talking heads who defined what an authentic pizza was. They had created the equation and solved it. I would put other people’s opinions, practices and food on a pedestal and let this idea of what other people in the industry were doing be the “right way.”
Well, it took me a long time, but what I have realized is that there is no right way. You get to decide that. People who put locks and fences around stuff like dough practices, toppings and other cooking methods create a pretty boring and strict world to live in. Don’t get me wrong: There are guidelines, but sometimes you have to color outside the lines to see what’s out there. For example, if using bleached, bromated flour is your thing, then I think you should shout it from the rooftops, and don’t let any artisanal sourdough baker make you feel bad for your delicious outcomes.
It took me a minute, but I’ve come to learn that the best pizza is the one I’ve developed, not the one some dude from Barstool Sports says is good. You might not agree with me, and that’s totally cool—and also the magic of being human. Anything can be whatever you want it to be.
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People are just people, and, at least in my life, I let my opinion about myself matter the most. Believe that you’re making a great pizza: That is what’s going to define the most authentic pizza out there. Because it’s authentically you.
Rules are written by people, not gods. Do whatever you want, because it doesn’t matter. Explore and try crazy stuff. Break the rules, get creative, make mistakes and build off them. That’s where great food comes from. Do weird stuff, because that’s when the magic happens.
But, as with everything in life, beware of getting caught up in comparison. Just be your authentic self, and the food will follow.
Alex Koons is an industry consultant and the owner of Hot Tongue Pizza, an all-vegan pizzeria, and Purgatory Pizza in Los Angeles.