FOODIE// 400 Gradi Masterclass

Some parents (life myself) don’t really think about what the younger stages will do for      your little ones future. For myself I learnt the hard way the first time around with Hayley, but aced it with Madison in the food department.

Im almost positive every family has a picky eater and that I am not alone in this, whether it’s the lack of teaching how food can be fun and such a broad menu or just your little one doesn’t like the look of something.

For me it came down to Hayley’s dad being very picky and that totally reflects now she is older, eating barely anything. But with Madison is was a lot more broad and I was all about making food fun for Hayley to get it into her, so it stuck with Madison.

Today I went to the Masterclass for adults at 400 Gradi in Brunswick for adults as apposed to the children’s Masterclass. I was happy to report back to Johnny that he had changed our household for good when it came to the kitchen and everyone getting involved.

I might touch base on the first experience at 400 Gradi with Johnny and the Children’s Masterclass.

400 Gradi has expanded with a brand new restaurant opening in Essendon about 8 weeks ago, but also have two other restaurants- East Brunswick on Lygon street and one in Crown Casino Melbourne (Gradi).

Johnny Di Francesco owns 400 Gradi and apart from being a top bloke with massive insiders knowledge to Neapolitan food (and king of pizza making), he’s also been crowned the 2014 World Pizza Champion.
Previously pizza night would be Mum and Dad in the kitchen buying bases and throwing
pizzas together and on the stone out the back, only then did the family sit together at the table and share their pizzas.

So after the Master class and after the girls got their hands dirty and was able to make their own pizza from scratch you cannot get them out of the kitchen and all they want to do it help.

This was the light bulb moment for me that would change everything, what the hell have I been doing this entire time. Here I was making them foreign food (that sometimes didn’t look the most appealing but was packed with nutrients) and expecting them to eat it. They don’t know it took three hours to cook the goulash and make the pasta from scratch, or the hours it takes to put something as simple as a pizza together. The problem was they didn’t appreciate what was on their plate and for all they knew it came from a packet.

So every since what I now call the miracle day where the family unknowingly walked into 400 Gradi for a Children’s Master class with the master of pizza himself Johnny, would change the whole family
eating concept- their Nonna and my Nonna will be very proud that they also have killer pizza skills now to.

When we arrived there were shiny metal bowls and all the ingredients needed to make a base lined up on the tables. Johnny was up the front going through each step and coming around to each child and assisting them in making the perfect dough.

By the end of it there was a perfectly, bounce back ball of dough in front of the children. Madison aced this and Johnny complimented her dough (future pizza chef in the making maybe).

So it was the same concept with the adults Master class except I didn’t have to stress about where the kids weer and was able to take all the information in.

Here are some key tips that Johnny gave to us:
- Always make your pizza with a crust and stretch it from the middle out. This was you’re aerating your pizza, which helps in the digestion of your food.
- Never overdose on the yeast, and try when possible to use fresh yeast. Using too much yeast is exactly what leaves you bloated and feeling sick, as the yeast activates and expands in your stomach craving water, hence the reason you get extremely thirsty.
- Know what you are putting in your pizza, starting from scratch you know exactly what you are putting into yours and your families stomachs.

The family being so keen that we a looking out for a quality wood fire pizza oven, for out on the deck. The ovens at 400 Gradi in East Brunswick heat to 400 degrees and cook in around 90 seconds,
yup you heard right, 90 seconds. Hence the name 400 Gradi (In Italian 400 degrees).

To finish this write up I thought I would leave you with a little interview with Mr Gradi -Johnny :

Why did you open your own restaurant, and what advice would you give to others looking to walk the same road you have? 

Growing up, I never actually thought I’d open a pizza shop. My family, obviously, has history with pizza, but it was always something I did for a part time job. I didn’t realise it was my passion until I was sitting in a university lecture discussing engineering completely oblivious to what the lecturer was saying because all I could think of was pizza! It was there and then that I decided that if pizza was what I wanted to do, I needed to make it happen, so that’s why I opened my own restaurant.

For those who are looking at following their dreams and opening their own restaurant, it is important to realise that sometimes, no matter how excited you are, it’s okay to have moments where you don’t know what you’re doing, how you’re going or where you’re going! There were plenty times when I freaked out, but one thing I was always aware of was my passion for pizza and sharing the tradition of it. Also always remember that hard work is what gets you places.

What did you gain from taking the title as the World Champion Pizza maker at the championships in Parma, back in 2014? How did it impact your restaurant chains if at all? Did you receive a lot more customers as a result? 

Winning the World Pizza Championship in Parma, Italy was a huge moment for me – not because of the title or exposure, but because it gave that 17 year old who had a dream for pizza the reward for all his hard work!

Since then, Gradi has only continued to grow – it was exciting to be recognised for our great pizza, so the increase in visitors led to more restaurants. The last year has been a total whirlwind of setting up Gradi at Crown, opening my Cicchetti bar next door to 400 Gradi and another restaurant in Essendon.
Not to mention the countless flights across the country and the world –no week is the same for me!

I will finish it off with my absolute favorite question to ask - What would be your absolutely favorite/dream pizza, toppings and all?

I just love making great, traditional Neapolitan pizza with the simple margherita toppings – mozzarella, basil and tomato. You just can’t go wrong with that, to me it’s the ultimate food. You can eat it without any cutlery, its hot, it’s delicious and its pizza!