Mr N, a resident of Jersey, was nothing if not thorough before becoming an Orchard Ovens pizza oven-owning customer but, having done his homework correctly, is not just a fan of his Valoriani wood-fired oven but an active advocate, demonstrating its advantages to other prospective owners.
Mr N was drawn towards owning a wood-fired oven, having been a lifelong and avid barbecue cook, after his wife’s cousin snaffled up a woodburning oven in 2018, at a garden centre sale. With his interest in pizza ovens sparked, Mr N embarked on research that he hoped would lead him to the best outdoor wood-fired oven for his and his family’s al fresco cooking.
Spurred on by an image from over 35 years ago, of an oven on a French canal-side, which was being heated by a blowtorch and propane gas and cooking everything under the sun, Mr N was dedicated in his efforts to explore the wood-fired oven market in the UK.
He contacted Orchard Ovens’ owner, Dino Manciocchi, for an initial chat about Valoriani domestic woodburning ovens. He also travelled to England’s south coast, to visit a UK manufacturer but, unconvinced, resolved to make a longer journey, to visit Orchard Ovens’ demonstration area and showroom in Preston. Despite having to travel by ferry to Portsmouth and then make a return trip to Preston in just one day, the journey proved invaluable. Mr N had found the authentic Italian and robustly constructed ‘pizza oven’ that stood apart.
An order was placed for a Top UK 100 – a Valoriani wood-fired oven in kit form, which Mr N and his builders could assemble as a garden design project. Little did Mr N know, when the oven arrived direct from Tuscany, in January 2020, that this would be a pandemic design project.
With a shortage of both labour and building materials due to Covid-19, progress was relatively slow but plans for a solid-based entertainment area outdoors, on which the oven and guests could sit in comfort, without chair legs disappearing down grass, was put into place. Progress is ongoing but the family have already enjoyed some idyllic occasions outdoors, as a small family group of Mr N and wife, son, daughter-in-law and grandchild.
Largely, the DEFRA-compliant oven has been loaded with wood and fired up by Mr N and wife alone, to experiment with recipes, pots and cooking temperatures. With the Valoriani oven having such superb heat retention, due to its superior refractory clay, 5cm cooking floor and dome and first-class insulation, cooking dishes with the use of residual heat, when the oven is cooling down having served its main purpose, has been a joy to explore.
Whilst the discerning new Valoriani oven owners have cooked many dishes other than pizza, including salmon recipes and Turkish stews, one hugely satisfying thing has been the chance to connect with Jersey’s heritage and, the traditional Jersey dish – the Jersey Bean Crock.
This dish, comprising a variety of beans, onions and pig’s trotter or ham hock, is one that Jersey women would have prepared and taken, on a Saturday, in their own distinctive and highly decorated pot, to their local bakery. After the bread ovens had finished baking, the baker would put the dish in the oven, to cook on residual heat overnight, providing Jersey families with a veritable feast when it came to Sunday brunch. Using the residual heat of his Valoriani oven, Mr N has been able to recreate this experience and tradition.
Delighted with his choice of oven, Mr N is now putting the finishing touches to his garden design but also becoming somewhat of an ambassador for Orchard Ovens on Jersey. Whenever a prospective buyer is considering an oven, he is proving more than willing to extol their virtues and explain why authentic Italian artisan craftsmanship and materials matter.
As they say, the best person to sell an oven for you, is someone who’s already got one and we can’t thank Mr N enough for his unswerving support and praise of our wood fired ovens.