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KNEADING Direction |

KNEADING Direction


The hospitality industry offers an endless variety of career opportunities to creative individuals. I, for one, am a great example of this phenomenon. (You just knew this was going to be all about me, right?)

My very first job was as a pot-washer and counter-server at a small pizza restaurant in a Northern Virginia shopping mall. When I took the job, I had absolutely no interest in restaurants, cooking or hospitality. I just needed to finance a car and I liked food.

The food we served there was delicious. Even after nearly 40 years, I can still taste two of my favorite dishes. The first? Deep-dish Sicilian-style pizza. I’ve had this kind of pizza a million times since, but none compare. What made the pizza stupendously delicious was the crust, but not the entire crust, just the bottom and side edges. They were sweet, savory, flavor prizes; the corners were the best.

My part of the process was to heft bags of flour and lift the 60-quart mixing bowl for the maestro of pizza dough, an old Sicilian man at least 70, maybe 100, who spoke zero English. Needless to say, we didn’t talk much. One thing I learned from him was how important pans were in creating the perfect dough. We used ancient black steel pans. I’ve never seen anything quite like them since. Used over and over, like cast-iron, they were never washed with water. The old man was very protective of them; we would simply bring the used pans back to him and he would gently wipe out residual crumbs, and liberally coat the cookware with olive oil. I thought of him as a sorcerer; I was his apprentice.

The other item carved in my taste conscience is a sausage roll. These brilliant bites were made with an incredible Italian sausage imported from New Jersey. The ropes of sausage were slow-roasted with onions, tomatoes, bell peppers and seasonings, then sliced and rolled with tender, sweet caramelized vegetables in very thin, almost transparent, pizza dough. It then traveled to the 800°F pizza oven and returned as a vision of sumptuous joy.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, this part-time job would lead to a career, from pot-washer to chef, to teacher, to culinary tour guide, to baker. I think I chose a pretty cool field.

It’s not Sicilian-style, but give this simple pizza dough a try and top it with whatever strikes your fancy.

Chef Bill’s Grilled Pizza Dough


  • 1 Tbs. local honey
  • 1-1/2 Cups warm water (100°F)
  • 1 Package active dry yeast
  • 3-1/2 Cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out
  • 1 Oz. olive oil, plus extra for rubbing
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. sea salt


  1. Dissolve the honey in the hot water, whisk in the yeast and let stand for about 10 minutes.
  2. Place the flour and salt in a food processer, pulse a couple of times to mix. Add the olive oil and pulse.
  3. Add half of the yeast mixture and pulse a couple times. Add the remaining yeast mixture and continue to pulse until a dough ball forms. Pulse three or four more times, then turn out onto a floured surface.
  4. Knead for five minutes; dough should be elastic.
  5. Place dough ball in a lightly oiled bowl and proof for 45 minutes to an hour.
  6. Punch down dough, shape into a cylinder and cut into six pieces.
  7. Preheat the grill.
  8. Roll out one piece into a rough oval.
  9. Brush with oil, and grill.

Until we cook again,

Contact Chef Bill Thompson, owner of The Amelia Island Culinary Academy, at to find inspiration and get you Cheffed Up!

Category: Cookware Pans  Tags: ,  Comments off
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