The three new pizzas created by celebrity Israeli chef Assaf Granit (The Palomar) for the local Domino’s pizza chain are fine – and woe to all if they weren’t. One of them is good, another is okay and the third is pretty bad. But that’s not Granit’s fault. Apparently he was asked to provide a recipe for a pizza with meat - and we can assume that even the great Auguste Escoffier would find it difficult to assemble something reasonable from “thinly sliced beef.”
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Israelis, of course, know Granit as the star of television series “Game of Chefs” and numerous commercials, and as the owner of a number of successful restaurants - including Jerusalem’s Machneyuda and the award-winning Palomar in London. His best pizza here, called 'Bezalel' – each pizza costs 55 shekels ($14) – is a moderately sweet onion pizza, with a good ratio between the amount of dough and toppings, and isn’t buried under a blanket of melted cheese.
But the story isn’t really about the pizzas.
What Granit is doing here is using his reputation as an über-chef in order to scatter “tasty mozzarella balls” on the heads of chefs who actually stand in front of the pizza oven night after night, and actually make pizzas by hand in a Sisyphean effort to take a very simple, everyday activity, rescue it from the monotonous norm and afford it some virtue.
In other words, as a chef who has acquired a reputation for fastidiousness, Granit is actually putting himself at the service of those whose greatest business enemy is fastidiousness. And by doing so, he is turning the whole venture into a pure act of consumerism. There’s no longer food, there’s no culinary art, no thought, no personal expression. Only a product. Call and order. There’s even an app.
When you enter Domino’s Pizza biggest branch in central Tel Aviv, there’s a picture of Granit on the wall embracing two female workers, with the inscription: “To my team, this is it. We’re on our way! Wishing us lots of luck. I rely on each and every one of you! See you in the branch.”
Am I the only one who pictures Isareli Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev wiping away a patriotic tear? And, incidentally, it’s possible that if Granit knew that one of the cashiers in the store serves the customers while scooping up food from a bag resting on his knees, and trying to juggle between the cash register, pizzas and paper napkins with his other hand – he would rely on his “team” a little less.
On the face of it, this is no more than a lame marketing ploy. A huge chain is trying to create an image of offering that personal touch, while employing a famous face. Or, as it appears in English – of course it’s in English – “Assaf Granit by Domino’s.” (What, Domino’s created Assaf Granit?) Granit doesn’t knead the dough, and he doesn’t position the thyme leaves one by one – and of course that’s obvious to everyone, including the customers. After all, they’re not expecting to meet him in their local branch. And if you’ve visited a branch of Domino’s recently, you certainly know that it’s an environment which makes it instantly clear why ordering pizzas over the phone is far more popular.
So what exactly is Granit doing here? He didn’t come in order to improve the pizza. Granit is not an expert on pizza. If he were, he’d have a pizzeria. So what’s the point (other than to pay the bills)? Well, that’s it. The point you have to understand is who the target audience of this campaign is. It’s not aimed at the other high-street chains – you compete with them with prices, efficiency, special offers – but against the high-quality pizzerias that have opened recently and that offer pizzas where there really is that personal touch and individual quality control (precisely the kind of competition that led McDonald’s to create Moshik Roth hamburgers).
In short, the new pizzas of “Assaf Granit for Domino’s” (I swear, that’s what it’s called in Hebrew – like a line of exclusive underwear) are fine. They’re perfect for if you like the fragrance of someone who, after reaching the top of the ladder, first of all “does a job” on those trying with painstaking work to climb out from under him.