When I helped make the World's Longest Pizza

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Ingredients:

Dough(lbs): 17,700 lbs

Sauce (lbs): 5,000 lbs

Cheese (lbs): 3,900 lbs

Start to finish (hours): 18 hours

Total Length (feet): 6,333 feet

I'm serious. Well over a mile of pizza and 251 more feet than the one they made in Naples last year. I mean 6,333 feet of pizza doesn't even sound real, and usually when I ask people to guess how long they say "I don't know, 100 feet? 200 feet...?". Nope! But let me tell you, breaking world records isn't easy.

Look mom!

Look mom!

Seriously, this was a GRIND! And I just made the pizza - the fun part. Think about the logistics and coordination it takes to make 6,333 feet pizza. Of course you need a stretch of land long enough - the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. You need an oven capable of driving! You need incredible sponsors. You need experienced and influential leadership - thank you Tony Gemignani and Giulio Adriani among others. And you need a squad of 100+ pizzaheads willing to work through the night to achieve a common goal. 

When I got the email to join the team I was pumped and booked my flight immediately. Then all of a sudden it's 2am, I've been docking and trimming dough for the last 6 hours, in front of me is freshly laid dough as far as the eye can see, and we're not even halfway done. What are we doing here? Am I dummy? Then, it's 5 or 6am, I'm grinding with my pizza teammates, the California sun is rising and providing some energy, and all of our hard work is materializing into something crazy awesome! And it was awesome because it was hard.

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Not only did we have to appease the Guinness judges, but we also had the Health Department breathing down our necks the whole time. For good reason though - all the pizza was donated to local charities, homeless shelters, and food banks! Guinness was making sure we were actually making a pizza - they held us to strict width, bake, and time requirements. The health department was making sure it was safe to consume and held us to restaurant-quality standards. Of course we wore gloves, washed our hands and tools, etc, etc. Those were the easy ones. A hard one, for example, was not having more than 100 feet of pizza exposed at any time. This meant a lot of coordination...and plastic wrap. I'll explain. 

Believe me when I say it was a grind...

Believe me when I say it was a grind...

Now stay with me here. To make a 6,333 foot pizza:

  1. Assemble roughly 7,000 feet of scaffolding around a race track.

  2. Lay down 7,000 feet of wire mesh and perforated teflon on top of the scaffolding.

  3. At roughly 9pm walking along a refrigerated truck stocked with 3 foot long and 20" wide dough sheets, the dough team unwraps, places, and joins dough sheets on top of the teflon one-by-one

  4. Following the dough team is the dock and trim team. They dock (make small holes) and trim any overhangs that might get caught in the oven while maintaining the 20" width set by Guinness.

  5. The oven and its team of engineers and dough-feeders follow the dock and trim guys. This is the first bake, or the par-bake. More on why we par-baked later.

  6. Behind the oven is the plastic wrap team covering the par-baked pizza. Like I said above, the distance between these guys and the dough team always had to be 100 feet or less which basically sets the pace of the entire operation.

  7. Do steps 1-7 for 7,000 feet....and roughly 12 hours!

  8. After the oven completes the par-bake and the entire 7,000 feet is covered, the pizza-building stops so the oven can turnaround and we can top and bake in the opposite direction. Keep in mind we could only feed the oven from one side and that oven was A BEAST. It couldn't just drop a U'y right then and there so it had to drive at like 2 MPH until it reached a driveway area, turnaround, and come back. This process, along with loading up a truck with tomatoes and cheese, took a LONG time and at this point it's like 9am and everyone is beat. Need a second wind.

  9. All teams huddle to go over the topping and final bake process along with some very important Guinness and Health Department rules:

    1. Once topping begins, the bake must be finished in two hours or less. This was the driving factor behind the par-bake. The only way the oven could cook a completely raw pizza all the way through was to travel very slowly to give the pizza ample time in the oven. Unfortunately, this speed wouldn't get to the finish line in less than two hours. So, two bakes - a par-bake for the dough and a final bake for the toppings.

    2. The pizza cannot be cut until the whole pizza is baked - makes sense right? Otherwise it's never really one cooked pizza.

    3. The whole pizza must be cut and boxed within one hour after baking.

    4. Same 100 foot coverage rules apply

  10. The unwrap team begins

  11. Following a truck stocked with buckets of tomato sauce and big bags of cheese, the toppers are continuously handed ingredients and get to topping.

  12. The oven, its engineers, and pizza-feeders are chasing the toppers.

  13. The finishing team, armed with blowtorches and extra cheese, fill in any gaps and make any last second corrections.

  14. The re-wrap team follows the finishers and covers the cooked pizza. Remember all this is happening in a 100 foot window of exposed pizza so these guys can't fall behind, the unwrappers can't get too far ahead, and the oven needs to keep a pace that will finish in 2 hours or less. The pressure!

  15. Do steps 10-14 for 7,000 feet!

The whole thing was beautiful. So many quick-moving parts, trapped in a slow-moving 100 foot box, topping and baking a 7,000 foot pizza, using an oven that requires a driver, around a racetrack in California. Just beautiful. But if those steps are confusing, maybe the following clips will help:

Above: my new buddy Hakki in the wee hours of the morning docking dough before the par-bake.

Above: the toppers getting after it as they get chased by an oven!

Above: a section of the pizza gets fed into the traveling oven.

Now, at this point, you might be asking why we prepped for 7,000 feet of pizza but the record says 6,333 feet...? Well, we had a major issue. At one point during the final bake, something snagged in the oven (likely the wire mesh) and we had a major twist-up that ended up shut down the oven and costed us hundreds of feet in pizza. Looking back, thank god we initially set out to smash the current record by about 1,000 feet and had a significant contingency. But at the time, while we were all staring at a smoking oven with a tangled ball of mesh in its mouth, ripped pizza on the ground, and event organizers on the verge of tears, we really thought the record was gone. 

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Luckily, the oven guys worked some magic and Tony Gemignani sprung into action with a pizza repair plan involving several more blow torches and spare wire mesh. We were saved, but still worried about our total length until a Guinness guy with one of those wheels your gym teach had to measure how many trees you had to run around to make mile came by and said we had a few hundred feet to spare. Which sounds good, but not when your dealing with such long lengths and this could happen again. The DRAMA! 

Thankfully, we got through it and at around 3pm PST we broke the Guinness Book of World Records for longest pizza! A few hours later I was passed out asleep in my hotel until the flight the next morning! It may sound silly or seem like a joke, but this was a difficult challenge and a tremendous team accomplishment. I am proud to have been on this team, to have worked alongside some great people, to have made new friends, and to be part of a world record in pizza! Major FORZA! Very special thank you to Orlando Foods for the invite - I am definitely down for whatever challenge is next! 

Above: a new world record!

Proof

Proof