The holy grail – the perfect wood-fired pizza.
Wood-fired pizzas have gained unprecedented popularity in recent years. A new pizza place seems to open in Dublin city centre almost weekly and people are flocking to them. Outside of the city, it’s much more difficult to find a great pizza place but Luke Denvir of Food Junkie Wood-Fired Pizza is changing that. I met Luke last Saturday at Naas Farmers Market to chat about all things pizza.
It’s calm and quiet at the farmers market. It’s 10.30am and although I had asked Luke to meet in the afternoon, he suggested dropping by in the morning before it gets too busy. His bright orange vintage Citroen Hy 1966 truck is easily recognisable; a real show-stopper. The menu written along the top shutter of the van invites you in and promises much, a promise that it effortlessly delivers on. I’ve had Luke’s pizzas before and they are delicious!
Luke is in great form. It’s clear he loves what he’s doing and his passion and enthusiasm are infectious. It may seem like the logical career path for the son of parents who met at culinary school but Luke took a less-traditional route to become a pizzaiolo. An electrician by trade, he moved to Australia six years ago and struggling to find work, accepted a job washing pots in a local restaurant. Over time, he worked his way up to running several kitchens, progressing to cooking for guests in ski chalets before eventually returning home to Ireland. A tough decision awaited him though – continue with food or return to his old career. There was only ever going to be one answer, but this time Luke wanted to be in control and do his own thing.
“I wanted to do something that I could nail” and with the high overheads involved in establishing and running a restaurant or café, a pizza truck was the obvious choice. It wasn’t all plain sailing however and after being quoted a 12 week time frame for his van to be renovated, after 2 years it still wasn’t complete. This growing frustration meant that ultimately Luke completed work on the van himself, documenting the restoration and consequently gaining a following on social media as locals began to show an interest. It was around this time that Ali drew my attention to Luke’s Facebook page and I myself, began to follow his journey.
Food Junkie pizza has its roots firmly set in Italy with a 72 hour slow fermented dough, giving the pizza a lightness rarely experienced outside of Naples. This is where the traditional Italian influences end and Luke’s unique flavour combinations take over -“It looks extremely easy here but each topping has taken ten hours. ” But as good as the toppings are, it’s Luke’s homemade flavoured oils that elevate Food Junkie pizza to new heights. As well as a roasted garlic oil and a chilli oil, there is also a homemade basil pesto and a 12 year matured balsamic vinegar to choose from. They make a huge flavour impact and really help set this pizza apart – “Pizza is not rocket science but it’s the freshness and these tweaks that make it.”
On top of the two year wait for his truck, there were other obstacles for Luke to overcome. Luke describes the difficulty in learning how to shape the dough with only YouTube videos and tutorials to learn from. When I ask him if he’d change anything, it’s a defiant “No, the mistakes I’ve made….I’ve learned from them.” His biggest challenge however, was neither the truck, the dough or even the HSE – “it’s helped me with my speech as well, my stammer; to some people it could be a struggle to interact but because it’s food and I’m confident, I love it.”
You can find Food Junkie Wood-Fired Pizza at Naas Farmer’s Market every Saturday from 10am to 3pm. You can also book Food Junkie for parties, weddings and corporate events. Follow Luke’s vibrant Instagram account and check out his website www.foodjunkie.ie.
* Heading photo by Luke Denvir *