What Club Chefs ‘Knead’ to Know about Pizza

By | May 9th, 2018

As dining skews casual and small plates remain popular, pizza is the perfect menu item to satisfy both trends.


Carmel CC’s pizza-themed food truck is run by Ryan Cavanaugh (left) and Tommy Stephens.

Pizza has an eatability and versatility that can’t be beat. It satisfies both the casual dining and small-plate trends. It can be dressed up or down. It’s good any time of day. And it has both a low food cost and a high perceived value.

“The margin on pizza is huge,” says Chris Caes, Executive Chef of Glen Oaks Country Club in West Des Moines, Iowa, where pies are prepared in the duel-fuel gas/wood pizza oven that the club installed a little over five years ago. “The pizza oven is the focal point of our open kitchen, and it brings a lot of action into the space.”

Glen Oaks CC prices its pizzas in line with local gourmet shops and offers a build-your-own menu with two different sauces, seven different meats, and six different vegetable and cheese choices, ranging from house-made mozzarella to caramelized onions. Gluten-free crust is also available.

In addition to the BYO option, Caes runs a specialty featured pizza every week.

“For St. Patrick’s Day, we featured an Irish pizza with boiled potatoes, béchamel, and Irish cheddar,” says Caes. “For the Super Bowl, we did a Philly cheesesteak pizza one week, and a lobster-roll pizza the next. This week, we’re featuring a chicken street-taco pizza with Guajillo sauce, adobo seasoned roast chicken, red onion, cotija cheese and cilantro.”

The pizza oven is the focal point of the open kitchen at Glen Oaks CC.

Glen Oaks CC goes above and beyond to get its ‘za into the hands and homes of its members by offering delivery throughout the gated community.

“We have a strong to-go following,” says Caes, noting that Glen Oaks CC’s delivery is often faster—running under 20 minutes or so—than if a member were to order through a local pizza shop. “We only charge $1.50 for delivery, and we send out on average 25 to 30 pizzas each week.”

A few times a year, Glen Oaks CC will engage with its “pizza people,” as Caes calls them, for an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet night at the club. “We’ll run it on a night when we don’t have anything else going on,” he says. “It draws a large crowd and generates a lot of excitement.”

Love at first slicepizza

With pizza, anything is possible. No clubs know this better than Carmel Country Club (Charlotte, N.C.) and Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club (Nichols Hills, Okla.)—at both clubs, pizza making has gone mobile.

Last year, Carmel CC purchased a pizza-themed food truck to increase its alternative dining options near the Honors Terrace, as well as at the pool. The truck, which can be booked for special events, is open between three and five times each week and features a three-foot by three-foot wood-fired pizza oven that can produce pies in five minutes or less.

“Within a few weeks of the truck being open, we started getting requests for dozens of other things out of that oven—lamb chops, roasted asparagus, cinnamon buns,” says Executive Chef Ryan Cavanaugh. “The oven is really versatile and it allows us to do a lot of different things, but we always come back to pizza.

“We can park the truck all over the property—on the golf course, by the pool and in the woods,” Cavanaugh adds. “We set up some service tables around it and a chalkboard sign, and the members love it.”

Carmel CC’s pizza truck staffs one full-time cook—Tommy Stevens—who has come to be known as the “Pizza Man.” He is tasked with running the truck and developing new and interesting pizza variations.

“Local, fresh-ingredient pizzas are always the most popular,” says Cavanaugh. The club produces its own dough in the bakeshop (except for gluten-free dough, which it buys).

Some of the more unique pizzas featured on the Carmel pizza truck have included:

  • Smoke house: Choice of pulled pork or smoked brisket, Bbq sauce, aged cheddar, pickled onions, cilantro
  • Home slice: Crispy chicken, bacon, red onion, arugula, goat cheese mozzarella blend, spicy peach jelly
  • Train wreck: Sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, truffle cheese, garlic cream, arugula, balsamic
  • Sweet and salty: Crispy pancetta, dried figs, caramelized onions, brie cheese, EVOO

Each time the truck is deployed, the club creates a menu of five pizzas that can be turned into calzones. The menu also includes appetizers, a salad and a dessert.


In 2014, Oklahoma City G&CC built a pizza oven on a trailer, so the club’s culinary team can park it anywhere on property.

In 2014, the maintenance team at Oklahoma City G&CC built a wood-fired pizza oven on the bed of a trailer. Initially constructed for a member-guest event, it is now a permanent performer for a variety of culinary occasions.

“It’s one of my favorite pieces of equipment to cook with,” says Executive Chef Mark Brown, CEC, CCA, AAC. The club transformed a landing area near the halfway house where the pizza oven now fires into action on special occasions. It is also used weekly during the summer for poolside pizza nights. “We’ll do between 60 and 100 pies in one Sunday night at the pool,” says Brown.

Because it’s on a trailer, Oklahoma City G&CC’s pizza oven can be booked for catering events both at the club and at the homes of nearby members.

“We always offer traditional pizzas—margarita, pepperoni, sausage—but then we have the cooks come up with some off-the-wall specials, like a cheeseburger pizza,” says Brown. “The weird ones always sell well.”

Lifelong Passion

Zanesville CC’s Anthony Russo adds entertainment value to Pizza on the Patio nights by hand-tossing and topping pizzas to order.

For Anthony Russo, Executive Chef of Zanesville (Ohio) Country Club, pizza is more than dough and toppings—it represents family and tradition, too.

Russo’s father is from Sicily, Italy. He came to the United States in 1975 and opened a pizza parlor in New Jersey. Six years later, the family relocated to Zanesville, where it opened two more pizzerias over the course of 11 years.

Throughout his childhood, Russo and his brother worked in their father’s pizzerias. They spent countless hours creating their own custom pies.

Not surprisingly, pizza is now available throughout the property at Zanesville CC—including on the patio.

“We installed an outdoor, wood-fired, Neapolitan-style oven, and once a month we host ‘Pizza on the Patio’ with a specialty, seasonal menu,” says Russo, who has been with the club for nine years and recently partnered with his brother to open a nearby fast-casual pizzeria.

“No matter where we’re serving pizza, we focus on using high-quality ingredients and doing everything from scratch,” Russo says.

The dough for Zanesville CC’s pizza, in fact, is the same dough used at Russo’s new restaurant. “It was our father’s recipe,” says Russo. “It’s perfect for Neapolitan-style pizza.”

View photos of the pizza truck at Carmel Country Club (Charlotte, N.C.).

View photos of the duel-fuel gas/wood pizza oven at Glen Oaks Country Club in West Des Moines, Iowa.

View photos of the pizza trailer at Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club (Nichols Hills, Okla.).

View photos of the pizza program at Zanesville (Ohio) Country Club.

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