Ten years ago, after Jack Campbell and his wife, Ana Bonnin, returned to the states from a year spent in Buenos Aires, Argentina, they faced a serious dilemma. They couldn’t find a pizza that matched the old-school American-pizzeria-inspired pies Bonnin grew to love during their year in her home country. Once all research efforts failed, Campbell, a science teacher, took it upon himself to create a perfect pie at home. The winning experiment involved a sourdough crust that was a hit with his wife and their family and friends. In fact, many of them said, “If you ever quit teaching, you should start doing this.” So he did. Campbell quit his job as a middle school biology teacher and opened up a pizza truck with Bonnin.
Indulgence Pizza debuted in the first week in January—using that same fermented sourdough crust for his pizzas and calzones—and you can find the truck posted up at Coffee Ranch and Secret Trail Brewing Co. in Chico and Farmers Brewery in Princeton. Visit its Facebook page for current schedule.
What made you decide to make a career change?
There are those sleepless nights where you’re saying, “OK, we just made a decision to do this, are we nuts? Is this crazy? Are my friends saying it’s great pizza just because I’m bringing pizza over?” I think anybody who goes into something like this, there are probably those moments of doubt. Most entrepreneurs have had to take that leap of faith at some point. You have to put your foot out there at some point; hopefully you find good footing?
Does if feel like you have?
Yeah. I still am surprised. Planning is very difficult, you know. It’s a lot of learning, since all my background since I was like a teenager has been in fields other than the food industry. It’s good, though—I do like to learn. I want to be a lifelong learner, taking on different types of work, and this is definitely appealing. It’s like a game, right? You don’t want to run out of stuff, you don’t want to plan for too much, and you want to serve as many people as possible within a window of time. It’s kind of addictive. My wife thinks I put too much time in.
What’s your approach to creating recipesfor Indulgence?
It’s nostalgic. I’m a little bit older, so when I was a kid there weren’t so many of these pizza chains. It was very much [like] you go into a town and often they had a pizza joint, maybe a couple. But people were very loyal to those places, and the style had very robust sauce. The crust played a part of the pizza—it wasn’t just like a paper plate, it was well integrated into the pizza, so there were all of these full flavors. That’s my memory. So when I went to Argentina, it was like that was revived. It was really similar in style because they cook an Americana style pie down there as well. It was nice to see that, and that’s kind of what I strive for. Even some of the big chains started out like that. I worked at a Round Table as a teenager. They were a different place than what they are now. It was that pizzeria style, heavy sauces and good quality cheeses.
Chico’s pretty good because we’re a college town, and so we have a lot of little pizza places to meet everyone’s tastes, but when you go into a lot of the larger city markets, there’s a lot of the same pizza all over the place and it becomes who can do it for cheaper.
What’s your favorite pizza you make?
Our Pure Indulgence. It’s something I came up with during this process. It’s got applewood bacon, Point Reyes blue cheese and sauteed onions. The combination of that sweet onion, that Point Reyes that puddles around the pizza and then that salty little hint of bacon, it’s like that umami mix—perfect.
We’d like to grow our brand. We’ve got ideas for pastas and ice cream and several [other] menu items. Who knows what [that] will mean in the long run, but there are a lot of options. We’re starting to do some catering. Which direction and how many directions we’re trying to go, we’re not entirely sure, but it’s a fun process. I finally found something I really like doing, and at this point in life, it’s nice to have something where people appreciate your work. Everyone should know it can be done. If you’ve got a spark, if you keep trying and going for it, it’s out there. I did a lot of things that didn’t work. And I kept the philosophy: If you’re not happy with what you’re doing, you’ve gotta change.