The Firestarter Interview series highlights those who share our passion for craft and our commitment to the highest standards possible. Our aim is to celebrate the creativity and dedication of those who strive for perfection, in whatever endeavor that may be.
Hearth & Fire® is pleased to present Part 3 of a 4-part interview series with Andris Lagsdin, founder of Baking Steel. Baking Steel has become a favorite of professional chefs and home cooks alike for its high level of conductivity, which allows pizza to cook faster and more evenly, resulting in a beautiful, thin, crispy crust. We at Hearth & Fire® have long been fans of Baking Steel, and were excited to have a conversation with Andris about our shared commitment to craft -- and shared love of pizza! What follows is a conversation between our own Chef Erik Jones and Andris. We hope you will enjoy the discussion as much as we did!
ANDRIS LAGSDIN: How Kickstarter works is basically you make something, and you presell it to the Kickstarter audience with the hopes of getting awesome feedback and sales to build the business. I was preselling my unit for like 60 bucks, 59 dollars - I wasn’t making any money. We presold 500 units, which to me was unbelievable, right?
ERIK JONES: Yes, that was 10 times what you were expecting.
ANDRIS LAGSDIN: I thought, “maybe there is something here.” I knew it worked but now I’m getting feedback from other people. The pizza makers at home were just like I was, dying for a cool product to make pizza at home. And that’s kind of where word-of-mouth escalated it from there. With the PR, this thing became a brand almost right out of the cage.
ERIK JONES: You launched with just the Baking Steel, and now your portfolio has expanded. Recently, you’ve been doing a ton of stuff. Two questions about that: What values guide you? What are your guard rails, as you’re looking to expand and launch new products and new classes?
ANDRIS LAGSDIN: What I’m really adamant about is that my product is 15 pounds, and a quarter-inch thick. It’s super heavy, which can be a drawback for some people, but that’s what makes it work so well: The strength of it.
I’m an industrial guy and I grew up in that industry. I wasn’t going to sacrifice quality to put a bunch of holes in something, to make it light. That would make it not work well. It’s not what we’re about. All of our products, by the way, have gotten heavier, not lighter.
I also knew from when I launched, I knew it was great, the pizza and bread, and then I started exploring the materials made out of low carbon steel.
My education is, “Hey look at this pizza I just made,” and then people will say, “How did you make that?” Then I can show - it’s always to me about education first. I make a lot of frozen pizzas. There are a lot of brands out there, a lot of bad brands out there, too. I know that my steel, preheated well, makes an incredible frozen pizza. It’s funny how it speeds up the bake time on it. It’s nuts.
ERIK JONES: In frozen pizza, it’s all about water migration, so the faster you can get that water out of there, and get it crisped up, the better.
ANDRIS LAGSDIN: That is what is happening.
ERIK JONES: With Hearth & Fire, like I said, the hardest part was slowing down the process. To make the best pizza dough, it takes time. And there’s nothing you can really do. Frankly, in manufacturing, time is what costs the most. We have to make sure that we build this time in and allow the dough to ferment. And the other thing is heat. Time and heat.
ANDRIS LAGSDIN: I find that home cooks don’t use enough heat. That’s probably the biggest hesitation: They’re afraid of the heat.