Meet the Tesco pizza chef
As part of the team who create the finest* Pizza range for Tesco, development chef Ian Swann speaks to us about his latest creation, finest* Lighter and explains how it’s possible to make a low-calorie pizza that still tastes great.
How did you become a pizza chef?
I’ve worked in catering since the age of 17. I worked in Italian restaurants, fell in love with the food, and I’ve been making pizza ever since.
What does your job involve?
No two days are the same. I currently work on the full Tesco pizza range, including finest* Lighter, which is less than 500 calories. I can be working on new briefs, new ideas or the innovation of current methods and ingredients.
Who do you work with at Tesco?
I work in close partnership with the Tesco pizza buyer. It was a joint vision to create the Lighter pizza, expanding on the existing range of Tesco Lighter ready meals. We looked at what was happening in Italian restaurants, what was trending in terms of new flavours, shared the information, and then we launched the new range a couple of weeks ago.
What’s involved in the process of making finest* Lighter?
We start by making the pizza bases in the bakery. First we bind the dough in large mixers, then the dough is put through rollers before being wood-fired and stonebaked. Stonebaked pizza bases are the best you can get, and the stones we use are authentic Italian stones from Mount Vesuvius, on the west coast of Italy.
How do you ensure the pizzas are produced to the highest quality?
We manually add hand-sourced ingredients that are strictly calorie controlled. This is a really important part of the process. The lighter versions of pizza are only 500 calories, so we have to be certain that we don’t go over this; the only way to be sure is by adding any extras by hand.
How do you retain the pizza’s flavour but lose the calories?
By doing our homework so we don’t compromise on the taste or quality. First off, we ensure the base is extremely thin. The base provides about two-thirds of the calories of a pizza, so we produced the thinnest base we could, wood-firing it to make it lovely and crispy. We also work hard to balance fresh-tasting flavours and toppings with calories, while still creating pizza that is visually appealing.
Where do you source your ingredients?
We only source the best ingredients for the finest* range – we want hero ingredients we can really shout about and be proud to use. A number of the ingredients come from Italy as, for example, we only use San Marzano tomatoes on our finest* pizzas. These are considered by Italian chefs to make the best tomato sauce and are what all the best restaurants use. We use the same ingredients you would find if you ate at a traditional Italian pizzeria – including high-quality ’00’ or double zero flour. We don’t use any additives; just water, flour, tomatoes and extra virgin oil. We keep it simple and our pizzas are fresh, natural and bursting with flavour.