Another morning begins, and Chef Eric Luna stands next to a giant, wood-fired Neapolitan oven that was assembled in Naples, Italy, and shipped far across the sea on a journey to its home at Pangea Kitchen. Eric, who is known affectionately as Brown Bear, has had a journey of his own over the past couple years to find himself standing proudly next to his oven as a master pizzaiolo.
Eric’s story doesn’t begin with culinary school, but at a local pizzeria. What started as a job quickly became a passion, and it was there that he met one of the pillars of Pangea Kitchen, our general manager, Kory Miller. In the beginning, Eric wasn’t familiar with gourmet baking, having only known the delivery restaurant process and not the trademark Detroit and Neapolitan pies we serve today. With Kory he learned the ropes, from the careful stretching of thin crust to basic pizza topping, and it wasn’t long until Eric found his footing. He learned to be independent and inventive with his pies, and when Kory confided that he would be joining Pangea Kitchen’s owner, Randy Hobson, in launching a new restaurant, Eric jumped on board.
After being introduced to the Pangea Kitchen team, Eric took up training with Alessio Lacco, a master Neapolitan pizzaiolo. With Alessio, Eric learned the strict guidelines put in place by the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana, an international organization protecting and promoting the production of the true Neapolitan pizza. From there, Eric graduated to Pizzaiolo Verace, a certified master of the Neapolitan style.
In Indiana, there are only a few pizzerias who boast the title of Neapolitan certified, and Pangea Kitchen is one of them. Eric is a unique and vital asset to our team, one of only a few certified pizzaiolos in the state. We think that’s a pretty hefty accomplishment. Though Eric is already a certified master of the art, he still continues his baking education, attending expos where he shares his own knowledge as well as learns from other pizzaiolos. Among other masters, like himself, is where Eric draws his inspiration. At expos he gathers the latest trends and adds his famous twists, some of which might end up on your table.
We’re very grateful to have a pizzaiolo as dedicated and passionate about his art with us here at Pangea Kitchen, finding new styles of pizza and exploring unique methods to create great pies. We invite you to come in, visit Brown Bear, and grab yourself a gourmet pie made by a master.