“Practice Makes Improvement” and Update on Pizza Endeavors

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted, mostly because I had planned for a post about the process of seeking a restaurant location as my next post… and unfortunately, I’m still in the process of seeking.  Who knew it could take this long?  Sometime in the last month, I decided that I should really keep posting anyway, mostly because the habit of not posting is far too easy to continue, and I felt the need to get back to good habits again.

Practice Makes Improvement

I’m a firm believer that no matter what you strive to do in life, it’s great to have a mentor to connect with, bounce ideas off of, provide constructive criticism, etc.  Even in today’s day and age, where so much can be learned through Google, YouTube, etc.  there’s a distinct advantage in having a mentor guide you down a path.

One of my mentors has a saying – “Practice Makes Improvement”.  I’m sure almost all of you have heard the old adage “Practice Makes Perfect”, but the older I get, the more I believe that perfection is pretty much impossible to achieve.  Sure, one can argue that there are some things you can perfect… a score of 300 in bowling, a 100% correct on a test you may take, Olympic scoring in gymnastics, etc.  But those achievements within themselves are considered perfect due to limitations we’ve put into place – 10 rds of bowling, 200 questions on a test, an open ended formula that rewards based on difficulty of gymnastic elements.  True perfection, as assessed not only by ourselves, but also the society we surround ourselves by, is near impossible to achieve, with a lot of the reason being the eye of the beholder… what one person deems perfect, another may deem just shy of perfect or even inadequate.  Perfection is subjective to the experiences of each individual’s perception.

So if true perfection in not realistically achievable, what’s the point of even trying?  Well, that just comes down to self-motivation and drive… Are you willing to be mediocre at things you do, or do you strive for continual improvement?  The phrase “Practice Makes Improvement” acknowledges that you will achieve perfection… but you will always improve, which is an important aspect of life itself…

During the one year of making pizzas, tweaking with techniques of how/when to stretch the dough, I was definitely able to see improvement in the pies we were making.  The two pictures below clearly demonstrate what lots of practice and willingness to learn/adjust can do.  The pie on the left is what our pizzas looked like the first day we seriously decided to pursue our pizza endeavor, and the pies on the right were from the last days we were at market.

IMG_3479 Za Pi Pizza Oven and Pizzas

Are there diminishing returns on continued practice?  Sure, at some point… but that’s when you have to decide for yourself when you’ve hit that point of “good enough” for you and those opinions you care about that surround you… But for many, “good enough” never exists.   And we continue to practice/improve/tweak looking to make even minor gains that are worthwhile within our own perspectives.

Update on Pizza Endeavors

For many of those who know me personally, through Pizzamaking Forums, or otherwise, this is nothing new… but for those who only know me through this blog, I wanted to give you an update on what’s going on now with my foray into the pizza business!

1.  At the end of 2013, my mentor, Paulie (of Paulie Gee’s in Brooklyn) revealed he would be looking to expand in Chicago, and asked if I’d be willing to partner with him!  After much deliberation, discussion, thoughts, and a few visits to New York to meet Paulie in person and try his pies, I’ve decided that this is absolutely something I wanted to pursue!  So this is the next step in my passion of food – opening up a Paulie Gee’s in Chicago.

2.  At the beginning of 2014, my partners and I decided to shut down Za Pi.  2013 was a phenomenal year of planning, learning, experimenting, eating (oh sooooo much taste testing and eating), and meeting amazing people at the markets… but with my focus on opening the restaurant, there was no way we could continue to run Za Pi effectively… so with that, we threw some a few days of good parties with lots of pizzas, sold the oven, and shut down.  It was a phenomenal year, one that I’ll never forget.

The process of opening a restaurant in Chicago has been a interesting life lesson so far… and I’ve definitely become the weathered cautious optimist over time.  More on that in future posts…