Interview: Paige Guggemos

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Events, Pizza, Pizza News

Paige Guggemos is the founder of MPLS Pizza Club, a pizza-centric community for pizza enthusiasts. Their annual event, Pizza Camp is about to take place for the fifth time on July 7–8, 2018.

Which came first, the pizza or the camp?

First it was pizza, then it was MPLS Pizza Club, then it was Pizza Camp!

I supported myself (somewhat) in college by working at two local pizza places. It opened my eyes to the local food scene and pizza culture. I also started getting more interested in the intersection of food and community. I was in some clubs in college and after graduating I sort of missed that community. I founded MPLS Pizza Club as a way to move some of what was happening with my friend group on to the internet so we had a platform to share what we were interested in and stay organized. Pizza culture was blowing up at the time, so it seemed like a natural progression.

In Ed Levine’s book, Pizza: A Slice of Heaven he describes New York Times Food Editor Sam Sifton’s Pizza Cognition Theory. Sifton describes the theory, “The first slice of pizza a child sees and tastes (and somehow appreciates on something more than a childlike, mmmgoood, thanks-mom level), becomes, for him, pizza.” Can you describe your first slice?

I love this theory. I’m from this little town in Minnesota so I grew up on midwestern thin crust pizza, square cut. We like to call it “party cut.” I can’t verify that this is the first slice I ever had, only that this was a staple at my parent’s house and I still try to make it back there for a pizza or two a year. I’ve never been much of a meat-eater so it was always cheese or cheese with green olives for me. Minnesota thin crust is usually lightly sauced and extra cheesy, and while my favorite style is more of a woodfire neo-neapolitan, I still crave a saucy thin crust all the time.

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Pizza Camp Co-Director Chris Cloud with Paige Guggemos at Pizza Camp.

This will be the fifth year for Pizza Camp. How did the first Pizza Camp come together? How has it evolved over the five years?

Pizza Camp was born in a rented hot tub parked in a backyard at Chris Cloud’s Birthday. Chris, who’s well-known for throwing good parties, and I had met at various art and music events over the years but this is the first time I’d been to his house. After eating some pizza in the hot tub we got to talking about MPLS Pizza Club and Chris asked, “Would you be open to throwing a big public pizza party?” I was doing that thing like in the movie “Yes Men” where you try to say YES to everything that doesn’t feel threatening, so of course I said “YES!” We talked about pizza cabins, pizza camping, pizza at the park, pizza summit, pizza parties… then finally a few days later he sent me a link to this cool summercamp just outside of Minneapolis and Pizza Camp was born. We both love the outdoors, community, art, and pizza and so we trusted our guts that it made sense to combine them into one event.

The first ever Pizza Camp was planned in about a month. Tickets were wildy cheap and mostly word-of-mouth but we sold out! We asked guests to bring their own toppings and then spent our entire budget buying every topping we could think of for the most extensive toppings bar I’d ever seen. I cooked all the pizzas myself in a conventional oven and it all had a very surreal, community DIY vibe. The next year we increased ticket costs so that the event was all-inclusive, the idea being that all you need to do is show up with a sleeping bag to have a good time. Each year we’ve incorporated classic programming from the summercamp and tried to improve the quality of the food and entertainment, with different surprises and elements at each camp.

Each year really builds off of the last year. We’ve had camp start at brewery, we’ve had birds of prey, we’ve flown out parody musicians like The Pizza Collection to play live at camp, surprised campers with a thousand filled water balloons, built 2 different pizza ovens, made pizza oaths, made pizza donuts, tried hundreds of recipes, learned wilderness survival skills, invented pizza games, added artists-in-residence, collaborated with different chefs, and even survived broken shoulders and oven fires at camp. It’s been a strange and delicious ride! This year’s camp will be a true culmination of our favorite parts of the last 4 camps.

Describe a pizza that surprised you.

There have been two pizzas that have surprised me/changed my life and my approach to making pizzas. I’ve had pizzas in lots of places around the US but both of these happened to be from places next door to each other in Minneapolis, and neither was very “traditional.” Here they are:

  1. Galactic Pizza’s CSA Pizza: Golden beets, arugula, and goat cheese pizza—thin crust. Olive oil sauce—all Farm Fresh ingredients. This has become one of my favorite pizzas to make every summer. I’ve got golden beets ready in my fridge right now!
  2. Muddy Water’s Seasonal Special Pizza: Strawberry, walnuts, red onion, mozzarella, and parmesan on a red wine & tomato sauce—thin crust. This is a pizza I’ve only had once and I think about ALL OF THE TIME.

Pizza evolves over time. Describe pizza in the year 2050.

I imagine I will just say something outloud like “GIMME PIZZA!” to the very thin air (our ozone will be like nonexistent by then right?) and a pizza will be 3d printed or delivered by a drone through a pizza shaped hole in my wall.

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