Detroit-style pizzas are a hit in St. John’s

Originally from Kerala, India, Albin Jose moved to St. John’s, Newfoundland for graduate studies in engineering at Memorial University. To earn some pocket money, he took a job in a pizzeria where he fell in love with the food and its creative process.

I worked in several pizzerias for five years. Through this experience, I learned what people like and dislike. I made these years a market research for what was going to set up in my own company. »

A quote from Albin Jose Toms, Chef Owner Black Cat Pizza

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Originally from Kerala, India, Albin Jose Toms left a job as an engineer to found Black Cat Pizza, whose creations take off in minutes. | Photo: Radio-Canada / Allison Van Rassel

Five years later, in January 2022, he first founded Black Cat Pizza in the kitchen of his apartment. The initial investment: a free sourdough obtained from a user of the Reddit website and the purchase of 50 rectangular molds in order to develop a pizza inspired by the one in vogue in Detroit in the United States, a style until non-existent on the island of Newfoundland.

Popular with pizza lovers across North America, the Detroit style is known for its rectangular shape, but above all for its moist and crispy dough bordered by a cheese gratin rim that crunches under the tooth.

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“I tried all the cheeses available on the island of Newfoundland before finding the perfect blend,” says the meticulous cook. | Photo: Radio-Canada / Allison Van Rassel

sourdough passion

The use of sourdough in the development of his pizza dough is the pride of the cook. According to him, it is one of the key ingredients behind the taste so prized in his creations.

I make my pizza from sourdough because it’s really, really goodhe says candidly. No one here works pizza with sourdough, because it’s difficult. There is a higher chance of failure unlike using an industrial quick yeast. I also have a lot of clients who are gluten intolerant and with sourdough it workscontinues the artisan pizza maker.

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A short and concise menu of four pizzas allows Chef Toms a quick turnaround. | Photo: Radio-Canada / Allison Van Rassel

One bite and I immediately understood why this cool cat’s pizza is loved by Newfoundlanders. Chef Toms pre-bakes his dough to bake it again with a mixture of grated cheeses by hand.

The cheese simmers then caramelizes during cooking around the edge of the cast iron mould. On the palate, the soft texture of its sourdough dough – similar to that of a focaccia – intertwines with the smoothness of the tomato sauce enhanced with the most enticing flavors.

Ah, that’s my cultural heritage , underlines the chef. I bring what I learned about natural fermentation through my Indian heritage, much like flatbread is made in Kerala. I also use traditional ingredients in a very subtle way that people don’t recognize right away, but which give a different taste.

My parents weren’t sure of my choice at first, they had doubts about my career choice. They tried to push me into a job in the oil fields where I could find a job easily, but that’s not what I wanted. Once they see all the attention and success… well, I don’t want to call it success yet… they get it.»

A quote from Albin Jose Toms, Chef Owner Black Cat Pizza

kitchen loan

When his friends started posting pictures of his pizza on Instagram, curious local chefs started asking about this famous pizza. One of them is chef-owner of restaurant Terre, Matthew Swift. Seeing the quality of the product, chef Swift suggested that the pizza-loving engineering student use his restaurant kitchen on days when his establishment is closed.

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The chef and owner of Terre à Saint-Jean de Terre fine dining restaurant, Mathew Swift, who shares his kitchen with Chef Toms on his days off. | Photo: Radio-Canada / Allison Van Rassel

Since spring, Black Cat Pizza has been in the kitchen of the gourmet restaurant Terre, a bit like a pop up. A big boost for this young company whose chief owner takes the time to do things right.

It’s really difficult to create a pizzeria, because it costs a lot of money, underlines the pizza maker. That’s why I wanted to start small in my kitchen and do things my way. I am very grateful for this collaboration with Chef Swift. I’m still in my early days, but people are ready to set an alarm to pre-order pizza when reservations open, with their credit card in hand, pre-determine what they’re going to eat, and drive from wherever they are so far to retrieve the food. It means so much to me.


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