A new regular feature in Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery magazine, “Culinology® Perspectives” will offer unique inspiration from the leadership ranks of the Research Chefs Association. We reached out to Chef Wiley E. Bates, III, global executive chef, Pizza Hut /Yum! Brands, Plano, TX, to learn more about top trends today in pizza.
Douglas J. Peckenpaugh: What do you see as some of the top trends in pizza today?
Wiley E. Bates, III: For me, the top trends of today would be that of foods that are cleaner (the ingredients list) and clearer (how restaurants label ingredients). Coming from a chef, that may seem cliché, but I believe that chefs have always been farm-to-fork artists, and we now get to articulate those passions to consumers who now demand transparency in what they eat.
When I was a culinary arts instructor, here in the Dallas area some years ago, my sign-off on each email stated, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” (Hippocrates). This centuries-old quote remains true for all chefs, culinologists and food scientists who believe in making a positive difference in the lives of a consumer’s food decisions.
DJP: How has the pizza market changed in recent years?
WEB: Pizza has become extremely commoditized. Everyone from gas stations to upscale venues are providing pizza options and are flooding the market with so many options that consumers must decide not only with their palate, but with their brand loyalties. I am proud that Pizza Hut remains a brand that is still most loved, and we continue to strive to be the brand that believes in pizza more than any other.
DJP: How has Pizza Hut built more possibilities for customization into its menu?
WEB: The culinary team here at Pizza Hut continues to innovate to the benefit of our customers. Our menu has been expanded to allow our guests to customize crust flavors, WingStreet sauces and seasonings, pizza sauces, and even pizza toppings like roasted spinach, Peruvian cherry peppers and the like. As we continue on our culinary food journey, we continue to strive to make sure we are providing menu customization that is customer led and loved. There is more to come, so be on the lookout!
DJP: Where do you find inspiration for Pizza Hut’s international pizza concepts?
WEB: We like to say here, “Ideas come from anywhere,” so I like to find inspiration from everywhere. I am quite fond of reading and keeping up with latest trends in the food world. I also like to surf social media for inspiration from “foodies” who like to show off their culinary passions through social channels like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and others.
I also like to get out and eat! What better way to find out what’s going on than to get into the thick of the food scene with friends and family. Again, from food trucks to fine dining, inspiration is everywhere so long as you are open to receive it.
DJP: How does the discipline of Culinology factor into your day-to-day work as a chef?
WEB: I absolutely LOVE that word … discipline! If we can distill that word a bit, it can be reduced to a simple meaning of, “The willingness to obey rules and order.” Culinology is the blending of art and science, and I believe I use a great deal of art that is grounded in the science of food. It is that discipline to create food that matters, and without some level of consistent execution of the fundamentals of cooking, one could never provide the level of quality fare that customers expect.
As a young man, I had a mentor who was a U.S. Marine Corp. sergeant, and he continually coached me on the importance to demonstrating this behavior and principle whenever and wherever you can. When it comes to food, I am very passionate about driving that attribute into my day-to-day culinary activities.
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are those of Wiley E. Bates, III and do not necessarily reflect the views of Pizza Hut LLC. All brands and trademarks are the property of their owners.