Behold! My very first, completely homemade pizza! I even made the dough and sauce, both from scratch. It's not going to win any beauty pageants, but it was damn tasty. It also managed to showcase my remarkable talent for dirtying just about every dish and tool in the kitchen in the pursuit of a single end product. My wife is constantly amazed at this superpower!
The funny thing is that, despite my inexperience and a variety of glitches along the way, it managed to taste better than 90% of the pizza I've ever bought from actual pizzerias and restaurants. For complete disclosure, I used mundane ingredients sourced from an average supermarket, not $50 delicacies from a gourmet specialty shop. I realize I was playing to my own tastes, but that still didn't seem to make sense that on my first try I could produce something better than a lot of people who do this nonstop for 8 hours a day. That got me thinking about the recipe for excellence, and why we don't taste more of it on a daily basis.
Most of my complaints about this pizza come down to issues of technique and experience. For starters, it was supposed to be round. Not a rounded rectangle or an oval, but an actual circle (to go on the circular pizza stone). I haven't failed the "circle" challenge that badly since I was 1 year old! The crust thickness varied significantly, and there were a few actual breaks that left me with a lot more cleanup after baking. Its clear that if I want round, even and pretty, I'll need to practice a lot more. I have no doubt that repetitions, mistakes and corrections will gradually turn this into something more photogenic and consistent.
On the flipside, the pizza tasted so good because I cared about it so much. At every step of the process, I was thinking about the outcome I wanted. It wasn't just that I was going to consume it myself. It was going to represent me, to both my wife and the world. I wanted it to be something I could be proud of. The passion I had for what I was doing came through right away.
These are the two key ingredients for excellence: practice and passion. One takes discipline and the other takes honesty. Put another way, you can force practice but you have to come by passion naturally. There are many passionate pizza-makers out there, but there are far, far more who are just doing their job. Their pizzas come out perfectly round, perfectly beautiful and perfectly average.
So there's your recipe for hot, crispy, tasty success. If you want to create something truly great, find your passion, then be prepared to practice.