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Perfecting Pizzas in Energy-Efficient Ovens

TJ’s Woodfire Pizza in Orange County worked with SCE’s Foodservice Technology Center to save energy without sacrificing quality.
By Sally Jeun

Time and efficiency are of the essence for Tim Gonzales — a rising pizza chef and entrepreneur in Orange County during evenings and weekends and a busy insurance broker by day. He’s also a dedicated family man with three children.

Six years ago he ventured into the food truck business with TJ’s Woodfire Pizza, which became popular in the Irvine area for its staple Neapolitan pizza using a traditional wood-fired oven. He opened a brick-and-mortar near his hometown of San Clemente last year, bringing Sicilian-style, New York and Chicago cracker thin pizzas into the mix.

Gonzales, who loves to play with flour and dough, wanted to test different types of ovens to see how they would work with his doughs and a new expansive menu. This led him to Southern California Edison’s Foodservice Technology Center — a demonstration and testing kitchen that showcases the latest energy-efficient commercial foodservice technologies and equipment.

“We wanted to be efficient,” said Gonzales of his decision to go environmentally-friendly. “We have to run ovens throughout the day and we didn’t want costs to be through the roof or use a ton of energy.”

Food Technology Center - Pizza Ovens

TJ's Woodfire Pizza's New York pizza is perfected in an energy-efficient deck oven.

The foodservice industry is among the most energy-intensive and a commercial kitchen can use more than twice as much energy than the dining area, explained Andre Saldivar, the Foodservice Technology Center’s project manager and test engineer.

“We encourage restaurants and foodservice customers who are planning to purchase new equipment like ovens, refrigerators and ventilation systems to come in and test the energy-efficient equipment at our facility,” he said. “It’s free consultation with an unbiased recommendation.”

Gonzales tested his new menu items in the electric ovens with SCE testing engineers on hand to assist with any questions. They also tasted the delicious samples.

“The people at the center were very helpful and informative, and the testing kitchen had a good wide-open area. It was a fun experience,” said Gonzales. “Our new ovens are extremely efficient. We only run it during open hours and we don’t have to turn them on hours ahead of time.”

SCE customers can save up to 7,300 kilowatt hours annually per deck oven and reduce costs through an incentive program for energy-efficient deck ovens offering rebates up to $1,275 on qualifying products.

Gonzales says gas ovens would have been cheaper upfront, but electric ovens provide a wider range and easier control over heat temperature.

This flexibility helps him focus on more important tasks — like perfecting his next pizza creation.

“I’m always messing with the ovens to come up with new products.”                                         

For more information on classes and workshops at the SCE Foodservice Technology Center in Irwindale: sce.com/workshops. Or call (626) 812-7666 to schedule a consultation, equipment demonstration or testing.

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