When the weather outside is frightful, it’s time to stand by the warm hearth of a Marana Forni oven. That’s what PMQ publishers Steve and Linda Green did over the holidays in Birmingham, England.
Now settled in my new residency in the Netherlands, my parents, Steve and Linda came to visit for Christmas and in their classic style they found a way to incorporate pizza into their travels. My husband and I tagged along across the pond, to the left side of the road to meet with British oven distributor and pizza industry expert in the field Tim White of White’s Foodservice Equipment.
You may know Tim White as the one who patented the stylish red handle bar on the XLT ovens. He’s a great storyteller, host and he only drinks prosecco. His story is colorful, bouncing between careers on happenstance or fierce determination but always in the food industry. He started his career as a young chef after getting an enthusiastic recommendation letter written by a drunk actor with a quill and ink, skipping all required experience and diving right into work at a five-star hotel. Today he is one of the most knowledgeable people on the pizza market in Europe and in the world. As Steve Green puts it, “Tim has incredible foresight into the pizza industry because he sees which ovens are being purchased. That foretells how the market is moving. We are happy to have him as a contact at PMQ.”
And so deep into the winter’s night we traveled to White’s Foodservice Equipment just south of Birmingham. The showroom featured a beautiful XLT conveyor and a Marana Forni rotating deck, along with pizza tools from GI Metal and more. The storage area was packed with XLTs ready for shipment and a collection of used ovens in for repair.
According to White, XLTs are taking off “like mad.” He says sales have jumped 50% in the past year but it took time to get rolling. “People like what they know,” says White, "so it wasn’t easy convincing them that a company like XLT from Wichita, Kansas really knew their pizza ovens.”
Marana Fornis are also beginning to “move“ in the UK. The Italian oven company was the first to create a pizza oven with a moving deck that not only rotates round and round and but up and down. These tend to sell to higher-end Italian restaurants with high volume. Mr. Marana came up with the moving deck as a solution to traditional wood burning ovens which lose heat in the stone during the dinner rush. With the ability to lift the deck into the dome of the pizza oven, pizza makers can take advantage of the heat which collects at the top, keeping the stone toasty and always ready for more.
After our grand tour at White’s Foodservice Equipment, White picked up his wife Viv and we were whisked to Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon where we dined on Christmas pheasants and their organs. The following day we visited a typical English independent pizzeria. In England like in much of Northern Europe, immigrants dominant the pizza sector. Check back next week to see what challenges they face.