Andris Lagsdin is the inventor of the Baking Steel and the author of "Baking with Steel: The Revolutionary New Approach to Perfect Pizza, Bread, and More." He studied culinary arts, worked in restaurants and eventually came home to work in his family's steel business. Then he figured out how to combine the two.
I've been working in the family business for the last 15 to 20 years. My dad developed this product called a FlipPad — an attachment for backhoes. Our customer base includes Caterpillar, John Deere, and Volvo Construction.
In the summers in college and on weekends as a teenager, I remember working there and the smell of steel being cut and welded together and formed. And then I went off my own ways, studied culinary arts and restaurants and never really thought I'd be back in that business.
And one night, in 2011, February 12 — I know the day. I was reading the Wall Street Journal after work. I'm reading about the launch of this new cookbook being written by Nathan Myhrvold, a former Microsoft executive. It's a deep investigation into the math and the physics and the science of cooking. The third question was how to create a Neapolitan style pizza at home and my eyeballs really lit up. Nathan's answer was to Google your local steel shop and cut out some steel for a shelf.
It was like somebody took out a baseball bat and hit me over the head.There was a genuine aha moment.
So I ran out to my plant and I grabbed a piece of steel — you know, picture this piece of steel that was rusted up. But in any case, I made some dough and for the first time, I had an extra crispy crust in my home oven, made on steel.
My brother and father originally liked the idea but how difficult would it be for Stoughton Steel, who makes backhoe parts for Caterpillar, to come out with a kitchen product? So I shelved it, to be honest, for a full year.
Just one day I woke up — you can cue the "Rocky" music — but I just kind of went for it. I started doing research and development. I thought, I'm going to give it a try because we've all had ideas, it's that execution on ideas that is so difficult because we're afraid or for whatever reasons.
Six months later, we launched and we literally sold 500 units in 30 days. So what I thought was going to be a side hustle, we had to now figure out, my brother and me, how do we make these?
All recipes excerpted from BAKING WITH STEEL: The Revolutionary New Approach to Perfect Pizza, Bread, and More. Copyright © 2017 by Andris Lagsdin with Jessie Oleson Moore. Photography © 2017 by Andris Lagsdin. Used with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York. All rights reserved.