At David Hawksworth’s eponymous three-year-old restaurant, the chef makes dishes such as foie gras torchon and pan-roasted sablefish, so it may come as a surprise that pizza is one of his favourite foods. Behind his Point Grey home, Hawksworth has a wood-burning pizza oven. He says that on his nights off, he enjoys making Neapolitan-style pizzas for his wife and school-age son.
“I like to keep it pretty simple—burrata, San Marzano tomatoes, and maybe some soppressata,” he tells the Georgia Straight during an interview in his back yard. “Whatever you do, do not load it up. Use three toppings, maximum. The cheese doesn’t really count, so cheese and then two or three things. Just don’t put five types of meat on it. That’s horrifying.”
Hawksworth wasn’t always so discerning about his food. Growing up in Vancouver, he became interested in cooking after watching his mother and grandmother in the kitchen.
“They’re English, so I remember my nan’s cauliflower—you could spread it on toast. It was like the consistency of butter because she would sometimes put it into a pressure cooker,” he recalls. “It wasn’t always the best, but it was always very wholesome.”
After graduating from high school, Hawksworth began working at the Beach House in Stanley Park (now the Fish House). Just before his 20th birthday, he moved to London, England, where he was offered a position at star chef Marco Pierre White’s Canteen. He remembers feeling unprepared for the long shifts and aggressive kitchen atmosphere.
“I was this nice Canadian kid who worked a solid eight-hour day here, and then over there, a shift wasn’t a proper shift if you didn’t do 16 hours. It was a huge learning curve,” he explains. “I remember standing in the stairwell after about the third day going, ‘God, my legs are just killing me. What’s going on?’ ”
Hawksworth stayed in Europe for a decade, moving between Michelin-starred restaurants such as Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons in Oxfordshire and L’Escargot in London. In 2000, he returned to Vancouver as the opening chef for West restaurant, where he stayed for seven years. However, he yearned to have his own restaurant, and around his 40th birthday, Hawksworth found his ideal space at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia.
“That was the dream. From when I was 19, I wanted to have this place in downtown Vancouver,” he says. “It kind of winds me up when people say, ‘Well, it’s Vancouver. We can’t be world-class.’ I’m very proud of here and having grown up in Vancouver, I think it’s a great place.”
Next summer, Hawksworth plans on opening a second, more casual restaurant that celebrates family-style dining. It will mix Italian, Spanish, and Californian influences, and of course, pizza will be on the menu—“maybe six”, he says. He’s been perfecting a recipe similar to the one below at home.
To pair with this pizza, Hawksworth recommends a glass of Italian red wine. “I love Old World wine,” he says. “You don’t have to spend a ton of money on it, but I like the earthy side of Chiantis. I think it goes really well.”
David Hawksworth’s Neapolitan-style pizza
¾ tsp (3 mL) active dry yeast
1 cup (250 mL) + 5 Tbsp (75 mL) room-temperature water, divided
2¼ cups (560 mL) Italian “00” flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp (10 mL) salt
1 Tbsp (15 mL) durum semolina flour, divided
1 cup (250 mL) San Marzano tomato sauce, divided
6 oz (170 g) burrata, divided
6 oz (170 g) cured and thinly sliced dry Italian sausage, such as soppressata, divided
3 serrano peppers, thinly sliced widthwise, divided
3 Tbsp (45 mL) olive oil, divided
3 cups (750 mL) arugula, divided
Grated Parmesan to taste
- In a large mixing bowl, combine yeast and 5 Tbsp (75 mL) of the water. Wait 10 minutes to allow yeast to activate.
- Using a stand mixer on the lowest setting, combine the yeast mixture with the remaining water, “00” flour, and salt. Mix slowly on the lowest setting for 2 minutes, then on a higher setting for 5 minutes, followed by 2 more minutes on the low setting.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave dough to rise at room temperature for about 2 hours, or until dough has doubled in size.
- Punch the dough down and push out the air bubbles. Using your hands, form it into a large ball. Divide dough into three equal portions. Shape each portion into a ball. Pinch the dough on top of each ball and stretch it around the ball to form a tight seal. Transfer the balls onto a large plate, seam sides down, and dust with a pinch of “00” flour. Cover the plate with a damp towel or plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for an hour.
- Preheat oven to 450 ° F (230 ° C).
- Create one pizza at a time. On a clean work surface, gradually flatten and carefully stretch a dough ball into a circular shape, about 12 inches in diameter. Dust a pizza stone or baking tray with about 1 tsp (5 mL) of the semolina flour, and transfer the pizza dough onto the tray. Ladle ⅓ cup (90 mL) tomato sauce on top, leaving room around the edges for the crust. Pull 2 oz (57 g) of the burrata into pieces and scatter over pizza. Top with 2 oz (57 g) of sausage and the pieces of 1 pepper. Season with salt and drizzle with 1 Tbsp (15 mL) of the olive oil. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
- Top pizza with 1 cup (250 mL) arugula and grated Parmesan cheese to taste. Repeat with two remaining pizzas.
Yield: 3 medium pizzas, about three servings total.
Recipe has not been tested by the Georgia Straight.