Sunderland has recently welcomed a new independent to its business community and the story of this venture is a shining example of what staying true to a dream, and overcoming the challenging setbacks along the way, can come to.
Midnight Pizza Crü was born out of an inherent passion for food, and following an opportunity to use the pandemic as a catalyst for a major change in profession and lifestyle, a local lad is finding that his passion for pizza is striking a chord with thousands of people across the region.
Matthew Thomas chats to Dan Shannon, the maestro behind Sunderland’s pizza phenomenon that’s taking the North East’s culinary scene by storm.
Here’s all you need to know about Midnight Pizza Crü…
Tell us a little about yourself? When did your passion for food and hospitality begin?
DS: So my background is in education, but I’ve worked in hospitality roles at various points over the past 20 years.
There’s very little that gives me more satisfaction than working hard and helping create cool experiences that people buzz off through food, drink and good service. It’s fairly addictive.
Where did you find your inspiration for Midnight Pizza Crü?
DS: Well, MPC started out a few years back as a bit of a loose social club of friends, getting together and eating pizza after gigs… just a silly name we gave to it.
During lockdown last year, I lost my job and decided to start making DSPs (Detroit- style pizza) for some of those pals just for something to do – it made sense to give it the same name and it snowballed from there.
For our readers out there who may not know too much about Detroit-style pizza, what can you tell us about the history of this particular style of pizza?
DS: Detroit-style pizza is actually more closely related to a Sicilian pizza, which is traditionally baked in a square pan – so a totally different region and style.
I suppose the style just developed when it was exported to Detroit, with the immigrant community based there. The bread is more like a focaccia than a thin crust pizza.
The story goes that the workers in the automotive factories in Detroit would bring home the steel drip trays they used for oil and tools (presumably they’d clean them! ) and then started to bake pizzas in them – similar to the old country.
The steel trays really give the style its signature crust, with the cheese getting crispy on the steel. I just think it’s a fantastic style that not many people have gotten to taste yet.
It’s really light, crispy and has a nice chew to the crust too.
What’s the process when it comes to creating and experimenting with new flavours?
DS: Testing and tasting. I try to rope some pals in to help me with that as it’s always good to get opinions and they’re usually happy to oblige!
As far as the flavours go, it’s just a case of using ingredients that you know will work well together and refining it so they go great on the pizza.
You’ve recently been serving out of The Ship Isis and collaborated with The Little Shop in recent weeks. Is there an opportunity for Midnight Pizza Crü to have its own HQ in the future?
I’d like nothing more to be honest with you. At the moment I’m just trying to get the name out there and get people tasting the pizza.
I’ve got some exciting things coming up – the pick of which is a collaboration with The Raby Hunt (a 2 Michelin Star restaurant in Darlington) – an absolutely incredible opportunity to work with the team there.
We’re huge fans of the artwork and merchandise that has been dropping on Instagram. How do we get our hands on merch?
DS: Thanks! Well, the independent music scene has been a huge influence on how I go about things generally, so a lot of the designs are influenced through that or made by artists who are involved in that scene.
I’m a fan of all sorts, but I like to try and keep a vein of that running through the brand. It keeps it relevant to who I am and what I’m about.
There’d be nothing worse than if MPC came across looking like an advert for home insurance!
Do you think the pandemic has encouraged people to support local businesses?
DS: Definitely! People have had no option but to seek out something new and exciting, and it’s been incredible to see.
I also think people have had time to consider alternatives – whether it be food, drink, music, whatever. It’s been amazing to see and I think it must affect the way people approach things going forward.
As we head into the summer, what does the rest of 2021 hold for Midnight Pizza Crü?
DS: More pizza, more beers, more tunes! All hopefully enjoyed inside somewhere with your pals…