Handmade pizza oven hot

BY CLAIRE MCENTEE
Last updated 05:00 22/06/2009
Brent Harley
MAARTEN HOLL/Dominion Post
FIRED UP: Brent Harley has found a ready and willing market for his self-made wood-fired pizza ovens, inspired by family barbecues on the beach.

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The first time Brent Harley tried out his handmade wood-fired pizza oven, he cooked a piece of toast in 20 seconds.

"I knew I was on to something.

"I'd been building fireplaces and chimneys for the family business and knew how to build something to get good heat and no smoke. People started asking if I could make them a pizza oven."

Fond memories of cooking with fire on the beach convinced him to give it a crack.

"We'd make paua chips in flames that were seven-feet [2.1 metres] high. It was a big family thing cooking with fire and we always loved it."

Three years on, his Petone firm Piazza manufactures and sells ovens that, once heated for an hour, can cook pizzas in 50 seconds. The ovens have a granite base, stainless steel flue, two ceramic layers and a weatherproof exterior, and range in price from $2485 to $8775 depending on the size.

Sales up to October last year were steady but dropped off as the recession hit, Mr Harley says.

"It was pretty tough so we quickly started to develop a secondary product a mobile oven that can cook about 30 pizzas in an hour. People can set it up in a sports ground or on market day and run their own little business."

The mobile ovens, which cost up to $37,000, have attracted overseas interest, with firms in Perth, Rarotonga and Japan placing orders.

"Many Japanese businessmen have lost their jobs or are worried about losing them. So they're looking for a secondary source of income." New Zealand franchise Mobile Pizza Guys has ordered 20 of the ovens and Piazza is pursuing a major deal in Queensland, he says.

"There's been a groundswell towards cooking with natural fuels and taking your time with it rather than just flicking on an element. With the pace of life today people need a reason to slow down and take time out. That's why they love our ovens."

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- The Dominion Post

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