It seems like the concept of a stuffed crust pizza has been around for as long as we can remember. Who knew at one point, the idea of baking cheese inside a pizza crust would be so ridiculous that it would become an iconic practice in the decades to come?
We spoke to Patty Scheibmeir, the inventor of stuffed crust pizza, to see what brought on this inspired concept.
Back in the '90s, Pizza Hut was the first to create the innovative dish. Before there were Internet Chefs stuffing foods into other foods, there was Patty.
Here's what the pioneer had to say.
What made Pizza Hut want to create a stuffed crust pizza?
Actually, the invention of stuffed crust pizza wasn’t planned whatsoever. I guess you could call it a happy accident!
I had an “AHA” moment when a guy in a focus group told us that he didn’t eat his crusts and usually fed them to his dog. It was at that moment I realized that maybe we were putting too much emphasis on toppings and not giving enough love to the crust.
I wish I could tell you that I woke up one morning and thought to myself, “I’m going to invent a stuffed crust pizza today.” Real talk: If it weren’t for that guy in the focus group telling me he never ate the crusts, I might not have had the epiphany, at least right away, to start tinkering with the idea of a crust filled with cheese.
What did your bosses think about the idea when you came up with it?
If I recall correctly, my bosses at Pizza Hut called me crazy, and then a genius and then crazy again. It took nearly three years for stuffed crust pizza to see the light of day, because they were so skeptical that customers wouldn’t go for it. That’s the biggest difference between working for Pizza Hut in the '90s and working for a next gen fast casual pizza company like Pie Five Pizza (were she works) now.
Taking risks is part of our DNA, and we’re not afraid to push the boundaries when testing out new products.
What was the process for making the crust?
All of my great ideas start in the kitchen with a few key ingredients and a big ball of dough. When I started experimenting with the idea of stuffed crust, I bought a whole bunch of string cheese at the grocery store and started rolling it into dough. It was an interesting test process, to say the least!
We went through A LOT of string cheese and dough.
What did the first rounds of stuffed crust look like? Was it completely different than what we got?
Completely different is an understatement. The string cheese from the grocery store actually hardens really quickly once taken out of the oven, so it was a lot of work trying to make the cheese gooey.
I also had to work with our dough scientists (yes, those exist!) to create a dough that wouldn’t tear when we were wrapping it around the crust.
What ideas were too crazy for Pizza Hut during your time there?
There were so many! I wanted to do a crust-less pizza, long before the low carb fad was even a thing. Obviously, that idea didn’t go anywhere.
I had an idea for a pizza cone that would fit in the car cup holder! Another was a waffle crust pizza that had melted cheese in the pockets. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if that one has been done already, considering how trendy it is nowadays to do food mashups. I also thought about a fried pizza – think state fair pizza where everything is fried.
What were your biggest inspirations?
I’m a big foodie! I love it all – ethnic cuisine, street food, fine dining and even fast food! My biggest inspiration comes from watching how people interact with their food and each other. People want to feel an emotional connection to what they eat, which gives me unlimited freedom to create new flavor profiles and products that wow our guests and keep the pizza industry innovative.
Patty now works at Pie Five Pizza where she is the Vice President of R&D. There, she's still working on crazy pizza related creations. One of which is a pizza and enchilada hybrid.
Yep, that's happening.