Last year at pizza camp, the campers were the chefs. We had a crazy topping buffet line with a hundred toppings and even more combination choices. It was incredible, but it also resulted in a long line of people waiting at the oven – anxious to cook their individual pies, and everyone having to eat at different times. This year, we’re older, wiser, and hungrier – so we decided to up our pizza game with a Chef and specialized pizza buffet. I knew I’d have to find just the right person to make this happen. The first person who came to mind has personally made me a lot of pizzas. Like a lot, a lot — easily over a hundred. If you’ve eaten at Galactic Pizza, Figlio, Il Gatto, or Muddy Waters, you may have eaten a pizza prepared by his hands, too. We’re so glad he agreed to join us for Pizza Camp 2015. Meet James McDaniel, the official Pizza Camp chef of 2015. I call him Jim, or Jeem – his pizza nickname.
Jim started making pizza ten years ago. It happened by accident. He needed a job and a pizza came to the rescue. Then, it just stuck, “I think I kinda love it like family,” he said. Muddy Waters hired Jim before they opened [their new location] a few years ago, and he’s been working there ever since. He’s always been willing to stop and tell me what the pizza specials are for that week, who designed them, and how they were made. It’s made me a loyal pizza fan to Muddy’s, which has quickly grown into one of our favorite pizza places and meeting spots for MPLS Pizza Club and Pizza Camp Counselor meetings. It’s also Jim’s favorite, he said, “I don’t really go out for pizza. Ours [Muddy Waters] is really good. I get pizza from work, generally.” He’s pretty much up to make any kind of pizza, too. When asked, he said he doesn’t have a specific favorite. Instead, he likes to play with fresh ideas. “If somebody comes up with an idea, but isn’t sure how to make it work. Then I get to test things out and get it to work organically. That’s the best. I can be creative, but working things out technically is where I shine.” What’s his advice for making pizza? “The easiest way to fuck up a pizza is to over-think it. There are moving parts, for sure, that tend to make people over-think it, but it all comes down to taste and texture. That’s the important stuff, right there. Taste is perfect, texture is crucial.” With that, we gave Jim our ideas for an ideal Pizza Camp menu, and he made it work. We can’t wait to eat and party with our favorite pizza chef this Saturday. See you guys there.
Like that interview? Pizza Camp has some odd connections to Stubble. Check out these other Stubble interviews with Pizza Camp attendees:
- Co-Director Chris Cloud on Why Pizza Flavored Things Still Aren’t Pizza (Video taken at Pizza Camp)
- Camper Joe as Uptown Stink Boy and Some Condo Party He Saw but Wasn’t Invited To.
- Documentarian Tom Q. Johnson on “Why Tom likes knocking things over that are ‘damaging to the people that made them.’”
- Camper Brian on Finding and Photographing Bananas in the Snow.
- Camper and Now-counselor Taylor Baldry on the Humor and Art of Fart Drawings.
– by Paige Guggemos