Podcast Ep. #6: Inside Mike’s Pizza Kitchen

Mike's Pizza KitchenIn this episode of the podcast, we speak to Mike of Mike’s Pizza Kitchen and get an inside look into Chengdu’s most beloved expat eatery.

It’s safe to say if you live in Chengdu, you have probably interacted with Mike, the pizza-tossing maven responsible for Chengdu’s finest pizzas. And if you’ve interacted with Mike, I’m willing to bet you have a opinion of him.  Whether on Internet forums, on the phone, or in person, Mike seems to leave an impression on people.

His pizza business – which started as a delivery-only operation run out of an apartment and now supports a brick and mortar establishment – is without a doubt a great success, but it’s not without its detractors. Mike has faced accusations online of being rude and short of temper. Others have told stories online of personally witnessing outbursts. And if you were only to read his website in full – a website that sports a 2,500+ word FAQ section – you might think the man was slightly deranged, if not also a sort of brilliant writer.

But we know few people who could tell me they’ve sat down and had coffee with the man and heard his side of things. Tired of hearsay and snippets and stories, we arranged a meeting with Chengdu’s pizza patriarch to talk pizza, fairy tales, police, and principles. If you have a opinion on the man, his pizza, or the state of Western cuisine in Chengdu, this one’s for you.

Discussed in this podcast:

  • The history of pizza in Chengdu
  • Where Mike made pizza before starting Mike’s Pizza Kitchen
  • Mike’s pizza inspiration
  • Mike’s history with China and Chengdu
  • When MPK was a delivery-only operation
  • Run-ins with the cops
  • The advantages of starting a food business in Chengdu versus other Chinese cities
  • Mike’s incredible website (and the 2600+ word FAQ section)
  • The fairy tale naming convention for Mike’s pizzas
  • Sourcing ingredients in China
  • Mike’s New York pizza trip (Di Fara Pizza)
  • Discipline, hygiene, and outbursts
  • Advice to foreigners trying to enter the food services industry in China
  • Johnny 5’s Donuts, Redbeard Burgers and Mike’s relationship to them
  • Other desired cuisine in Chengdu (Dan visited the Vietnamese place mentioned at the end of the podcast, 小越香, located in Tongzilin, and it’s really nothing to get too excited about. Sorry.)
  • How to get a sandwich named after you

Download & Stream Links

Here are links to download or open the podcast in iTunes:

Download the Podcast Open in iTunes

Or click below to listen to the podcast now through your browser.

You can also search for the podcast in your favorite podcasting app (mine is Overcast, which I highly recommend for iPhone users).

If you have any comments or feedback on this podcast or on topics you’d like us to discuss in the future, leave a comment below. If you enjoy the podcast, please share it! We look forward to recording more of these and continuing to chronicle and share the story of life in Chengdu.

 

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15 Responses to “Podcast Ep. #6: Inside Mike’s Pizza Kitchen”

  1. Mr. Klink

    Mike sounds like a real dude. Informative and interesting podcast. Looks like I’ll have to give his pizza a try sometime.

    Also, had an idea for a sandwich called the Grumpy Businessman. It could have whitefish and smoked salmon with capers and onions.

  2. First, thanks for putting these Podcast together.

    I don’t want to come across as being mean, but I would like to make two comments about the Mike’s Pizza Kitchen podcast.

    1. Please shorten your questions down to one or two sentences. Your interviewee is ready to answer and you are still rambling on.
    2. Let the people talk. If they are explaining something, no need to finish the person’s comment for them.

    Thank You.

    • Dan

      Hey Daryl, thanks for the honest feedback. Believe me, as I was editing this recording I found many moments where I wish I had just shut up and let Mike talk! To be completely frank, I’m fairly new to this and I’m becoming very familiar with what I need to work on.

      I really appreciate you listening to the podcast and hope you continue to listen as we improve these and other aspects of the podcast.

      But! If I may offer one counterpoint: we’re trying to have conversations, not strict interviews. A strict question-answer format can stifle the mood. I will readily admit that I talked too much, but we’re shooting for something more like a conversation than an interview, if that makes sense.

    • Charlie

      Thanks for the feedback, Daryl. We’re working hard to improve in many areas. It turns out (we are learning) that recording good podcasts is pretty difficult. Thank you for listening.

  3. A jerk who makes good pizza is still a jerk.

    • You didn’t even listen to the interview, jerk.

  4. Maz

    Splendid interview chaps 😀

    I am a regular delivery and occasional pick-up customer of MPK.

    The first time I walked into the Kitchen to pick up my pizza, I saw a guy flipping doughs in the air. I didn’t think it’s Mike himself, but maybe his younger brother haha!

    It’s a great and very hardworking team there at the MPK. I hope you continue to be more and more successful. I’m excited by the addition of Johnny5 Donuts next door. Great food and team there too. Will try Redbeard soon.

    • Charlie

      Hi Maz,

      That is Mike. He’s there everyday flipping pizza dough. He is amazingly committed to his craft. Hearing about his inspiration within the pizza world (Lucali’s and Di Fara, NYC) illuminated a lot for me about why he works the way he does. My first thought was, why not just train people to do what you do, expand, and reap the profit? It turns out that this is not in the pizza code of excellence, which I knew nothing about until this conversation.

      Thanks for listening and commenting.

  5. My wife in Chengdu convinced her parents to buy a little oven and made pizza for her extended family for Spring Festival. I think she blew their minds. Well, I’ll have to try Mike’s pizza one of these times when I’m in Chengdu.

    • Charlie

      Try it, I think you will enjoy it. I also recently got an oven through a great deal on the forum. It’s turned out to be an amazing purchase and something that I use 3-5 times a week.

  6. Mike and Aiqing! Keep doing what you are doing, great stuff! But please take a break and come see us in Bangkok!!! We miss you! Got plenty of stories here to tell you. We do miss Chengdu, but getting a visa to visit for a few nights is keeping us here.

    Much love and nice interview….we listened to the whole thing last night!

    D and D

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