It seems that just making good pizza won’t cut it if you want to survive in such a saturated market. Pizza joints are everywhere and they taste the same more or less with a few good ones in between. So you need a really good niche if you want to survive in the market. That’s just what this chef from Guatemala did. He found his niche, although it did involve replacing the pizza ovens with a volcano and lava.
This chef recently became famous for turning Pacaya’s volcano into a pizzeria that serves its customers pizza baked from volcano ovens. The chef’s name is Mario David García Mansilla and he grew up near Pacaya, the most active volcano of Guatemala. His passion for cooking and his love for his hometown led him to open Pizza Pacaya which has now become a popular tourist spot in the area. Tourists pay a premium to have their pizzas baked in a volcano oven or even on top of hardened lava.
Mario was initially an accountant but one day as he was going up the mountain, he saw a group of tourists roasting marshmallows over the hot lava, and there he had a eureka moment. He realized that he could build a niche around cooking food over the lava. The start was rough and it took many trials and errors before he settled on pizzas. He had tried to roast steaks and braise chickens but realized that they required two many utensils to prepare and serve the food.
He had to burn two pizzas before getting the hang of how long the pizza needed to be cooked. It took him five years to get to the place he is now. Officially opening back in 2019, Pizza Pacaya is now a popular tourist pizza spot. He now climbs the hot volcano almost daily and brings all his equipment with him to cook and serve tourists their pizzas, His backpack is usually 60 pounds heavy with all the equipment and ingredients.
Mario either cooks his pizzas in many of the oven-like caves on Pacaya or he simply set it down on the hot hardened lava. The work is hard and traveling over hot lava isn’t very easy either. Even with military boots, his feet get pretty hot. A pizza normally takes 10 minutes to cook given just how hot the lava actually is.