Meet Matt McMillen - @quartet1977
Meet Matt McMillen and his wife, Clara Stemwedel. They live in Portland, Oregon, where they partner every Saturday to make two sourdough pizzas. Though they’re surrounded by awesome pizza like @scottiespizzaparlor and @apizzaschollspdx, they like their own so much that they rarely go any farther than their own kitchen for pizza. Matt answered a couple questions for us, but you’ll have to follow him @quartet1977 for the full scoop.
How do you divide pizza duties between the two of you?
I make and handle the dough, but everything else we do, we do together. I start the dough on Thursday morning, and that's usually when we start talking about what we'll top it with. If one of us has a clear picture of what one should be - like our recent eggs Benedict pizza - we'll go with that, tinkering with how we'll make it work on a pizza. Hollandaise sauce was tricky but we made it work! Otherwise, we bounce topping ideas and combos off each other until we've figure out our two pizzas. In the kitchen on pizza night, I often make the red sauce, while my wife makes an amazing garlic cream sauce, and we divide up the rest of the prep equally.
What’s one piece of equipment you couldn’t live without?
Our Baking Steel. Just essential.
Who inspires you to make great pizza?
So many people inspire me on Instagram, but there are two that get special mention. Jim Challenger (@jimchall) got me going. Seeing his pizza pics back when I first started making bread and thinking about pizza showed me that homemade pizza could be great. Jim's so busy with the Challenger Breadware company that he doesn't make pizza as much as he used to, but his bread continues to blow me away. Through Jim, I met Chris Lem (@chris.lem.w). Not only an amazing home pizzaiolo, but an enormously supportive and encouraging friend. We mostly talk about pizza, but really, what else matters? I'm hoping to make pizza with him someday!
What advice do you have for new pizza makers?
If you are baking in a home oven, get a @BakingSteel. Best pizza tool for home cooks. Other than that, practice a lot. Give yourself an excuse to make pizza as often as possible. Find a dough recipe you like and stick to it for a while to really get to know it. Then try experimenting with different flours and varying amounts of water and other ingredients until you figure out what you like best and what works best for you. Also, there are no rules when it comes to toppings. Anything you like to eat probably tastes even better on a pizza. Some of our favorites have been CYF, or clear your fridge: just grab whatever random stuff is lurking in your fridge and toss it on that night's pizza. Finally, ask questions! Pizza people on Instagram are happy to share their knowledge, so take advantage of that.