David Yudkin, of our partner HOTLIPS Pizza, just did a fantastic interview on the Portland Radio Project with Luke Neil about the ways he invests in working with community farms and local purveyors. Check it out for some insight on what it takes to make pizza you can really feel good about:
Thank you for what you do for the community. You have been featured on Food Network for your soda and obviously pizza. You have deep community involvement. If you would share with our listeners what is the core message or driving force of HOTLIPS?
DY: Thank you so much. The driving message is community. Just like your station. Our community is not only our customers and our employees but our farmers and neighboring businesses. We’re working every day to bring unique offerings direct from farmers. For example, Pizza Week is coming up and we’re featuring a pizza with chèvre from Portland Creamery and garlic whips which are just coming from Persephone Farms. We’re constantly creating and working on new things to bring. We make our own ham, Italian sausage, dough, pestos, there’s an incredible amount of work. We’ve got great guys working for years and years for HOTLIPS. We’ve been around since 1984 and some of the employees go back, actually we have an employee celebrating 25 years with us this Friday! Consistency, longevity, you know it's actually harder to stick with it over that amount of time, shiny new things are interesting but it takes a lot of hard work to keep it day in and day out.
LN: How long does it take as far as your community involvement, when you decide to work with a farm or a source? What is that start to finish process before the public can see that product?
DY: We’ve been working with local ingredients since the mid 90’s, probably before that. We have farmers we’ve been with since then. Often it's really an agreement with them on prices we pay and sometimes for example in August someone will come in with a rack of tomatoes saying ‘hey buy these’ and I’ll have to say well back in January or five/six years ago we made a deal with our farmers we work with. We really treasure those farmers and try to offer a consistent flow for them so they’re not out there beating the streets. They are also working months or a year ahead of time planning on the crops to come. So, the last thing we want to do is jerk them around and not buy what we promised. It's challenging, because we deal with things like weather, customer flow and all kinds of variables.
LN: You have plenty of locations please tell us about your first location here in Portland?
DY: The very first location was at 2nd & Washington. It’s where the James Beard headquarters is. The oldest existing location is at PSU on SW 6th and Hall. We had 6 locations in Portland, a few ready to go in Vancouver, WA. Seattle had a couple. 180 miles is a long way to go. We decided to came back to Portland, my wife grew up here, now our home and our kids grew up here. We’ve been asked to go to California, Texas, Florida, all over. Even Saudi Arabia. It's really not the way to spend your life on an airplane. It's about community, when you start reaching out it can be an extractive relationship. It may benefit one community over another and it wasn’t something that interested us to be involved in. We have really focused on Portland.
LN: And you’re customer focused too. I think HOTLIPS has more dietary options than anyone else. Can you speak to some of those for people who are like “I just can’t have pizza”?
DY: I think the main thing right now we really focus on is having vegan offerings. Gluten-free was really hot there for a while and on people’s minds and we still offer gluten-free options. To be honest we really focus on pizza. We’ve done different things but you have to do what you do well and concentrate on that. It’s tempting to go off and try other things. But, I do have to say we make some killer cookies. We have people that come in who don’t even eat pizza and just come in for our cookies.
LN: I can see that. I’ve had your vegan pizza; it's fantastic as well. We want to thank you for being here. For the community involvement and all that you do for the surrounding areas.