When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie that’s amore, right? When it comes to all matters of the heart (and stomach), we’re going straight to the source to get the slice on all things pizza: 800 Degrees Co-Founder and Chef, Anthony Carron.
We met with Carron at 800 Degrees’ Santa Monica location and talked about everything from dropping out of college, working under Michael Mina and how he slings 1,000 pizzas a day. What we learnt? You don’t need a passport for the ultimate Napoli pizza-loving experience, just a big appetite and a visit to his restaurant.
Chef Anthony Carron isn’t just a chef. Although he may have made his biggest mark in the cooking industry when he opened his first Neopolitan fast-fine pizza chain, 800 Degrees, it’s not the only thing Carron undertakes. He runs an international chain restaurant, spends hours training handfuls of staff members, is constantly flying between Dubai and Tokyo, and that’s just the beginning. Between that and his outstanding wood-fired pizzas, you immediately understand why this chef has taken Los Angeles by storm.
Before perfecting pies, Carron was working as a prep cook in Saint Paul, Minnesota. “I loved it. I never looked back - I actually dropped out of college to cook in my senior year” he says. At just 22, Carron went on to purchase and reinvent an American coffee shop diner, and at 26 he moved to San Fran and landed a gig as a lunchtime grill cook with Chef Michael Mina. Carron would go to become Corporate Executive Chef and open 15 restaurants with Mina.
With a love for cooking gourmet, Neapolitan-style pizza, Carron opened up his first 800 Degrees in Westwood on Jan 1st 2012. The concept? To cook Neapolitan, build-your-own pies in under 2 minutes in an 800-degree wood-burning oven. “I had no idea if it would work. Nobody had ever put pizza in a line form before - I was terrified. Up until the day we opened, because it worked. I was hoping we could sell 250 pizzas a day, that was the magic number. Within a week we were selling 1,000 a day.”
Fast forward six years and 800 Degrees has locations in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Dubai, Japan and Qatar. So what’s an average day for someone with an international restaurant?
“My role has gone full circle - from cooking, to running the business, to back to cooking”, Carron says. A lot of Carron’s time is spent researching and developing, working on recipes and new dishes, spending time training staff members, and building relationships with partners - which includes flying to Dubai once a month - proving that as a restaurant entrepreneur, you’re not always donning an apron.
“There’s what you do, and then there’s the business of what you do. And they’re two totally different things”, Carron explains. “For most chefs, the cooking is the easy part, but understanding the economics of the business is critical. Fortunately, we got lucky with being busy, but I didn't understand the economics well enough when I started. I knew how to cook good, but there are a lot of other pieces to it.”
So what can we expect next from 800 Degrees? “We are doing some menu expansions and adding protein in the form of Rotisserie”, says Carron. This will add more variety to 800 Degrees, beyond just pizza, while still keeping with the wood burning theme.
The evolving concept and menu changes behind 800 Degrees is reflective of the art of the cooking itself - with Carron noting that the nice thing about cooking is that you never stop learning! “There are so many different cuisines and ingredients around the world to try and to learn. To this day I can still walk into Ranch 99, the big Asian market, and I have no idea what two thirds of that stuff is. I’ve been spending my whole life trying to figure that out.”
Until then, we’ll be grabbing traditional Neapolitan slices at 800 Degrees. And now you too can enjoy his dishes, wherever you are, with Uber Eats. Tap into the app and try Carron’s favorite pizza, the ‘Angry Bee’, topped with Soppressata, garlic, Calabrian chiles and honey, or build your own pizza, with over 40 different fresh and flavorsome toppings to choose from.