Pizza holds a special place in the hearts of many. Be it Napoletana, Siciliana, Romana, a New York Slice, Chicago deep-dish, Detroit or New Haven… Often, and traditionally seen as the product of the city rather than the person making it, we set out to explore London’s pizza scene and meet the makers who have captured the hearts of Londoners with their innovative, full on flavored pizzas made with carefully selected flours and ingredients.
The first episode in our Pizza adventure sees us meet Hannah Drye, the woman behind the brilliant, ‘Dough Hands’.
How did Dough Hands come to be, how did it all start?
The initial idea that I wanted to have my own pizza place came pretty soon after I made my first pizza to be honest. This was about 10 years ago when I got my first pizza chef Job whilst at uni in Brighton. Obviously life gets in the way and it's one of those things that kept getting sidelined until 3 years ago when lock down happened, I was still working but at home a lot more with time to finally be like 'right, what do i want to do, what vibe do I want, where can i trade' and it finally happened came up with Dough Hands and got a spot at Brixton Market on Station Road, I was still allowed to trade through COVID cos food was considered essential business and basically at first it was just my mates coming down, I always had some tunes going, everyone bought tinnies from the supermarket, and we kinda hung out while i made pizza for everyone, slowly I started selling to people I didn't actually know and it just kept getting busier, eventually I moved to different markets, started doing breweries and other pop ups, takeovers, collabs etc, and here we are!
The pizza scene in London has come a long way in the last ten years and seems to now finally have made its mark with the great pizza’s being the product of a person rather than being simply pigeon-holed by the city it comes from. What does it mean to you to be part of that zeitgeist-like movement of simply brilliant and innovative pizza makers who put well sourced ingredients and rule breaking flavours front and center of your work.
Dough hands has been going for nearly 3 years now, but really it's been in the pipeline for much longer than that and it's been a bit of a graft (as it is for anyone setting up their own business!) I’m only really interested in making the absolute best, it's not about trying to make a load of cash slinging out thousands of sub standard pizzas. I want to be the best in the game. So to have the hard work and the pizza itself recognised as moving in that direction means everything.
What has been both the most challenging, and the most rewarding part about the DH journey from idea to pop up then onto bricks and mortar?
One of the hardest things really has been doing it on my own, don’t get me wrong i’ve been blessed with so much help from my girlfriend and friends and family along the way but I think its not having someone else who’s just as invested in it to kinda go through all the stressful/scary/shitty moments with and not having another brain full of ideas to be constantly giving input. Which means I’m constantly messaging everyone asking ‘do you reckon this is a good idea…?’ ‘What do you reckon about this on a pizza..?’ ‘Does this sound like it's gonna taste weird…?’ etc.
I think the most rewarding part is honestly the feedback from people, having people poke their head into the kitchen and tell me they’ve just eaten the best pizza they’ve ever had actually makes all the stressful bits worth it. Making pizza is something I love doing so much and to have people really enjoy what I put out is just the absolute dream, that probably all sounds a bit cliché but it’s the truth!
Where did you learn the art of making such stellar pizzas?
It actually started as a student job when I was at university in Brighton. The first job I found was working in the café at BHS which was pure HELL and I was desperate to get out. There was an ad on gumtree for FOH at a place called Pizzaface in Kemptown, I went in for an interview and got the job! I was answering the phones and taking orders but was kinda jealous of the chefs getting to make pizza all day so I asked if they could teach me and soon after that I was cheffing it up. I ended up working there for 5 years and to this day it's my most favourite job I’ve ever had. There's been a few other places I’ve worked since then but I’d say Pizzaface is definitely responsible for giving me those initial skills.
Ideal plant based pizza?
For me I absolutely LOVE a tomato pie, or marinara whatever you want to call it, basically a tomato sauce made with the absolute best tomatoes, a load of super thin slices of garlic and oregano, finished with flaky salt and EV olive oil. It's one of those simple things that just hits so hard on flavour.