Thursday, May 24, 2012

The King Of Crust

When it comes to innovation in the pizza industry, Pizza Hut always tries to push the creative envelope crust-first.  Sure, you'll occasionally see Pizza Hut, Domino's, or Papa John's experiment with some new wild and crazy topping--I remember when pineapple on a pizza was a scandalous revelation.  But tinkering with the crust seems like a logical choice; it's the pizza's greatest weakness, serving as little more than a convenient handle for people to grasp as they stuff their faces.  The crust is often relegated to the garbage can, discarded by pizza fanatics who refuse to waste precious stomach space as they focus on the superior meats and cheeses covering that prized real estate trapped within the confines of that bready halo.

I'm no pizza historian, but I think it all started when someone at Pizza Hut came to the conclusion that cheese needn't be caged mid-pie and created the phenomenon that would later become known as Stuffed Crust pizza:

At some point thereafter, a Pizza Hut scientist hypothesized that perhaps pizza didn't need a handle at all, turning every last inch of pizza into a majestic canvas decorated with the finest toppings, daring us to go to "The Edge:"

Further crust-based innovation brought some new "twists" on the norm (quite literally), with Twisted Crust pizza--a braided combination cheesestick/breadstick baked around the pizza.  It was around this time, in the mid-2000s, that crust took its first steps toward becoming an entirely separate meal surrounding an ordinary pizza:

Not unlike the Twisted Crust, Pizza Hut's current crust de jour is a combination breadstick and cheesestick, only in bite-size form: Cheesy Bites.  While I like the idea, at first glance this dangerous dish vaguely resembles a saw blade:

Interestingly enough, it's in the foreign markets where Pizza Hut has taken the idea of surrounding a pizza with a second meal and really run with it.  The strangest part of all is that Pizza Hut is flaunting its pizza ingenuity around the globe using two American staples: hot dogs and hamburgers!  These are two classic examples that I embarrassingly missed in my previous post on crazy foreign foods.

The British, long known for bland food and bad teeth, have the privilege of eating Pizza Hut UK's Hot Dog Stuffed Crust pizza, which makes regular stuffed crust pizza look like an amateur recipe cooked up in a child's Easy Bake oven.

Pizza Hut struck yet again in the United Arab Emirates with the craziest crust the world has seen to date.  This dish is the undisputed king, and it's got the crown to prove it:

Why the English language dominates in this Middle Eastern commercial, I have no idea...but as you can see, the Crown Crust Cheeseburger Pizza is an odd combination salad/pizza surrounded by grilled mini cheeseburgers.  If there was any doubt that Americans are chomping at the bit go gobble up such a royal delicacy, a man named Jon Gabrus wiped those out by traveling nearly 7,000 miles and 13 hours from New York to Dubai to dine with the king of pizza.

Personally, I would have satisfied the craving on a tighter budget with twin trips to White Castle and Pizza Hut, but I guess sometimes you just gotta have the real deal. Though, given the circumstances, I would have done the exact same thing as Gabrus--the College Humor website funded his journey, asking him to post a video of his experience for the site's Wanderlunch section.

These recent developments in the world of pizza have left me all kinds of confused.  Why not America?!  And I find myself anxiously wondering what's next--which entree will next surround the international pizza of tomorrow?  And despite Pizza Hut's best efforts, why don't these crust-based inventions ever seem to gain permanent traction and stick around longer than a few fleeting months?

I think the time has come to shift innovation back to the middle of the pie.  Not to brag, but my family has a bit of experience in this arena:

What you see above is a bold Thanksgiving experiment, circa 2009.  We shunned the standard turkey feast and toyed with a new pizza-based tradition, with a wild variety of unique concoctions.  We didn't entirely turn our backs on the staples of the holiday, however, with Mom whipping up a Thanksgiving-themed pizza complete with turkey, stuffing, and gravy (sadly not pictured here).  The new tradition didn't entirely take hold, but nevertheless, I'm confident that the wave of the pizza future rests inside the crust.

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