The current vogue for deferring to a chef's decisions has reached the masses in the form of Domino's new Chicken & Bacon Carbonara pizza.
Chefs in high-end restaurants have lately been given increased leeway to dictate the customer experience, setting menus and withholding salt shakers according to their whims, and corporate food developers are apparently feeling a tad autocratic too. The ad campaign for the newest addition to Domino's line of artisan pizzas stresses the chain's unwillingness to alter toppings.
"For the first time ever, we're telling our customers no," Domino's spokesman Chris Brandon told me when I visited Domino's world headquarters last Thursday, the day the ads debuted.
According to Brandon, Domino's pizzas can be customized in 34 million different ways. But the company is refusing to allow customers to muss with its four artisan pizzas, the first of which appeared last fall. Brandon says customers can ask for the new pizza without bacon, for example, but requesting additional toppings is verboten. Nobody's getting a Chicken & Bacon Carbonara pie with anchovies.
"It's a preset recipe our chefs worked on forever," Brandon says. "We're confident in the recipe."
An industry expert this weekend told the Los Angeles Times that the gambit could be successful in establishing Domino's commitment to food quality.
"This is probably an attempt to upgrade the brand," the paper quoted Dominique Hanssens, a marketing professor at the UCLA Anderson Graduate School of Management, as saying. "It's a way to draw attention to the quality of pizza."
Two trends collide aboard the Carbonara pie, which is still so new that Brandon and a colleague briefly bickered over the correct pronunciation of the Italian term: Ingredient seriousness and plenty of chicken. While Brandon says a pepperoni pizza "is and probably always will be our most popular item," Domino's is continuing to roll out various chicken preparations, including buffalo chicken sandwiches and boneless wings.
"People like chicken with their pizza," he says.
But no matter how much they like chicken, Domino's isn't adding the meat to its artisan spinach-and-feta pies.
"No, you can't have it," Brandon says. "It will be interesting to see how people respond to it."