Late last month, Culinary Instructor Rick Prondzinski offered his students “A unique, one time only opportunity” to be a part of a special class project. Together, on August 27th, Prondzinski and students of his various classes built a clay oven from scratch.
The oven would have cost $8,000 to purchase, but the materials to build it cost around $300. It will be a resource used for Flavors not only for the remainder of this semester, but for future culinary students as well, it’s main purpose will be baking pizzas but will also be used to cook meat, fish and other tasty treats for the restaurant.
The oven began with a circular, cement block foundation laid the day before. The first step of Friday’s class was to combine mortar clay mixture, wood chips, straw, water and clay slip to make the clay the oven would be built with.
The clay had to be thoroughly mixed to the right consistency and was then spread over the cement foundation in an even layer to make the base of the oven, all the while the second batch of clay was being mixed. The base of the oven had to be four inches thick so it took several batches and coatings.
The next step was laying the bricks for the archway and patching them together with the clay mixture. A wooden board was temporarily screwed into it to keep it from leaning or shifting before it could dry.
Straw was laid on the base, covered by wet sand up to the top of the archway, to the build a large dome which was immediately covered with several layers of wet newspaper strips. Before the strips could dry, more layers of clay were spread on top of the paper covering the sand. The sand and straw will later be removed, and the paper under the top layer of clay will be burned off.
Sounds easy enough right? Not so much. Even with the combined effort of over a dozen people working together, the oven building session took about four hours from start to finish, not counting the previously made foundation.
Mark Strickland, third semester student working on a culinary degree, jumped into every aspect of the building process head on, with a smile on his face. Fellow student Beth Arnold refers to Strickland as “A pro. A total jack of all trades.”
According to Strickland, the original foundation was the hardest task in the project because it took ten bags of cement mixture to make and was made by only him and Ed Slattery. When asked how he felt about being an original part of this Flavors’ legacy, he responded. “I love it. Just being in this class is amazing. Rick knows I know my stuff and if anyone else needs help in the class they know they can come to me.” Strickland also stated, “Culinary class won’t be the same without Rick and I’m glad I get the chance to be taught by him.”
Two weeks later, on August 10th, Prondzinski fired up the oven for the first time in front of the Fire Department. Everything went well, use of the oven was approved, and everyone ate homemade pizza to celebrate.
On Wednesday September 15th, Flavors began making and selling five different Artisan Style Pizzas. Vegetarian, Cheese, 5 Cheese with Sun Dried Tomato, Pepperoni, and Sausage. The pizzas are $8 and Flavors will be delivering them during restaurant hours, if it’s not raining. Stop by the restaurant or for delivery call (530) 741-6933.