After a fourth place finish in the Pan Division at Pizza Expo, Nicole Bean’s star is shining bright. Pizza making runs in her family, but it wasn’t necessarily pre-determined that the Women in Pizza member would follow that path. We talked to Bean about how LloydPans helped her place well in the competition, where she gets her inspiration for new pizzas and her fearless advice to young women starting in the industry.
LloydPans: You didn’t start in the pizza world, even though it’s a family business.
Bean: True, I did not start my career with pizza. My dad wanted to open a pizzeria and I had been working in pursuing fashion merchandising. But I ultimately moved into the family business and I enjoy it — it’s a different change but you don’t have to convince people too hard to eat pizza. I love the aspect of doing something different every day.
LloydPans: How did you decide on what pizza you would specialize in?
Bean: I don’t know if I’ve figured out my speciality per se; I really enjoy dabbling in a lot of different things. Neapolitan is one of my favorite pizzas to make because it’s super fast and I enjoy the quick repetition of it. I have very little patience, so it blends well with my personality. I really enjoy working with the fermentation process, but it does frustrate me because I’m like ‘hurry up!’ But I think it’s quite a bit of fun and I’ve been exploring fermentation more, dabbling in focaccias and different types of pan pizzas — Roman-style for example — and building up my repertoire.
LloydPans: What is your current favorite on the menu at Pizaro’s Pizza?
Bean: One of my favorites is our stuffed Detroit. We cut our parbake in half and stuff it with fresh ricotta and mozzarella that we make in house. The great thing about it is that you bite into it and it’s a nice creaminess and you get the juiciness of the sauce on top and then you get the crispiness of the crust and it’s one of those things that warms your soul.
LloydPans: When you’re not in the shop, what are some of your faves?
Bean: I’ve eaten at a lot of places in town, and I definitely like to compare and contrast to ours. I love a basic cheese pizza; there’s something simplistic about a cheese pizza that I love.
LloydPans: Not everyone who makes pizza competes. How did the competitive pizza making start?
Bean: I was basically nudged gently into competitive pizza making. My brother had been competing for two years, and my first competition in Atlantic City was petrifying. People are watching and judging you and looking at every meticulous thing you do. It’s always nerve wracking to think, ‘How is this going to perform?’ ‘Am I going to mess up?’ ‘Am I going to burn a pizza?’ I’ve done it all. I’ve placed dead last; I’ve burned a pizza; I’ve ripped a pizza. You learn so much about yourself and how to handle different situations. It triggers you — how could my day be better at home? How can I move in a faster-paced environment? You have one chance when you’re competing, so it’s quite a different experience.
LloydPans: What did you compete with at Pizza Expo?
Bean: I used a dough with beets, which renders a beautiful pink color. I wanted to come to the competition with something very weird. I wanted to do it last year, and I chickened out on it because I was too afraid the judges wouldn’t understand the concept. This year I wanted to make what I wanted to make. I made a padellino pizza with a 12” round pan. Dough was more focaccia-style with fresh strawberries, strawberry jam, balsamic glaze drizzle, arugula, lemon zest, candied pecans, crispy prosciutto bits, sauteed shallots with balsamic, burrata and a mozzarella blend.
LloydPans: How do LloydPans make the difference in your kitchen?
Bean: We first learned about LloydPans at a demo when we were first doing Detroit-style. We asked around for a couple of different suggestions, and a lot of people recommended LloydPans. Most of them I’ve had for several years. We have the 8x10s and some 11x14s and we recently bought one of the cool Egg Pans. I’ve got a slew of pans at home too: a Roman Pan, Grandma Pan, Sicilian Pan and more. It’s a total investment. They last a really long time so it’s like buying a car; you’re investing for something long term.
LloydPans: You’re a member of Women in Pizza. What is it like to be a woman in the industry and any advice to young women starting out?
Bean: It has been very interesting to be a woman in this industry. I didn’t realize it at first until it was brought to my attention, "Hey you’re one of very few,” and I said ‘I guess I am, aren't I?” We started the Women in Pizza movement with about 10 to 15 of us for any women who needs a voice in this industry.
This year’s Women in Pizza event at Pizza Expo was three times as big as it has ever been. There were like 200 people there, and last year there were maybe 60. There’s a lot of support for new women, and I’ve had dads reach out to me for advice. There’s a lot of responsibility to share professional knowledge and showing the way women should handle themselves and to not be afraid to stand up for themselves. More than I’ve seen in many years, women were winning awards this year, not just competing. I’m seeing a lot of women employees participating more, but not just participating — winning. My advice? Just get out there and do it. Show up, and make a pizza.