Meet the chef behind one of the Barras newest street food vendor, The Pizza Cult
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Tucked neatly into the right hand corner of the London Road section of Glasgow’s famous Barra Markets, beneath its red and green-painted tin frame, and among veteran stalls selling second-hand crockery, vintage clothing and handmade key rings, is The Pizza Cult - one of the newest entries to the city’s bustling street food scene. The vendor was opened in May of this year by Denis Fisher, a pizza chef who developed his craft at home during lockdown before honing it inside the respective kitchens of Strip Joint (Finnieston) and Franco Manca (City Centre). It specialises in freshly baked Neapolitan-style pizza, the evolving menu compiled of daring ingredients catering to a variety of tastes and dietary requirements.
The Pizza Cult ordinarily operates within the Barra’s opening hours - Saturday and Sunday between 10am and 4pm - though we visited on a Thursday, when Fisher was having photos taken of his delicacies for Deliveroo, a new venture for the business. There was an eeriness to the market so empty of people, a stillness that didn’t quite fit the setting. Tarpaulin sheets wrapped around unmanned stalls protecting the goods and light flooded in through the open shutter.
Denis cooked pizza after pizza; he massaged dough, stirred through tomato sauce, prepared toppings and reviewed the contents of the oven, these actions constant and intertwined. When questioned on how it all came together, Denis said: “I was working in sales for about ten years and never enjoyed it for a second. I travelled around a lot, I lived in Australia for a little while, I lived in Canada for a little while. I did sales because it was an easy job to get. But then once I moved to Glasgow I tried to get into something different. I turned 30 and thought ‘what do I actually want to do with my life?’
“I was making pizza and sourdough starters all through lockdown. Someone jokingly suggested I could become a pizza chef and then I thought ‘maybe I actually could’.
“I made a CV and put it out to a few places and the owner of Strip Joint in Finnieston invited me in for an interview. He’d read my CV wrong, he thought I was a pizza chef but I’d put ‘home pizza chef’. He didn’t realise until I was in, but I explained the dream to him and what I wanted to do and he brought me in for a trial to see how I’d get on.
“I was useless, I couldn’t even get the pizza on the peel, it was really really bad. But he must have like my attitude or whatever because he invited me in to start and I was washing dishes for a month and then eventually worked my way up to running their pizza section in about six months. And then after another six months I got the head chef job in Franco Manca and did that for about a year before the opportunity came to open this place which I jumped at. I bought the oven and all the bits and here we are.
“The plan was to get a van, but then I came down the Barra’s one weekend and it just seemed like a really cool place. I just loved the vibe of it.
“It’s been great, it’s been busy, it’s been good. The issue is I sell out too early, that’s my problem. It’s hard to gage how busy it’s going to be - I don’t want to sell out but I don’t want to waste food either.
“I feel like I’m constantly learning the dough every weekend. Every weekend is a different challenge on how to manage the dough.
“I get inspiration from places like Instagram or places when I eat out. I might have a sandwich somewhere and then think how I can translate it to a pizza and then play around with it.
“I couldn’t have done it without my girlfriend, Emma, who has been amazing since the start of this. She’s been down on weekends, she works 9 to 5 during the week but comes here on her days off which has been great. She’s helped me with all the social media stuff and has just been amazing.”