Mark McWhirter, founder and owner of Meanwood Pizza Co, put a lot of his lockdown time into creating pizza perfection. His efforts did not go to waste.
So, Mark – why pizza?
“Everyone loves pizza, don’t they?” Mark responded, “The lockdown was the perfect opportunity to get the practice in and jump on the outdoor pizza oven boom.”
It wasn’t Mark’s first taste of pizza making and he recalls his job at a popular pizza chain over a decade ago, back in his native Northern Ireland. This experience, along with countless hours reading blogs, books and watching videos on the science behind making pizza dough, gave him the knowledge to work on bringing the concept to fruition. Lots of taste testing subsequently followed using friends, family and his local DPD driver as willing participants!
Meanwood Pizza was soon formed, with the first pop-up held at Terminus Tap Room & Bottle Shop (encompassing Meanwood Brewery) in March this year. This is now a regular slot ,along with some collaboration pop-ups with the brewery across Leeds. Beer and pizza make for the perfect combination after all.
What makes Meanwood Pizza Co Stand out?
Pizza seems to be more popular than ever, with lots of choices to get your fix across Leeds. So what makes Meanwood Pizza unique? Mark explains.
“The key for me is in the dough preparation, homemade sauce and only using quality ingredients. Even though it is more time-consuming, you cannot skip on these elements or your pizzas will not be as authentic or flavoursome.”
Mark is not wrong, I can personally vouch for just how damn tasty Meanwood Pizzas are. The crusts have a lovely airy rise to them and the marinara sauce I could eat in abundance. The majority of the ingredients are sourced from a local Italian supplier, to retain those traditional flavours. The range of toppings also has a wide appeal, from classic Margarita (V) to Marinara (Ve), Pepperoni and my favourite the Holy Goat (V) (goat cheese, balsamic, rocket & red onion). Plant-based meats and vegan cheese options are always available, as well as gluten-free if enough notice is given. The best seller is the Pesto Pollo (Chicken, red onion and a pesto drizzle).
The Pizza journey so far:
“I’ve always enjoyed cooking for people. It has been a lot of hard work behind the scenes, particularly hours prepping the dough 24-48 hours before pop-ups. Hearing feedback from others who have enjoyed my pizzas is my main motivation; you can’t beat that. The biggest compliment is repeat customers and those who follow me from pop-up to pop-up. I have also had to take on some constructive criticism as any new business does, so it’s important not to take this personally but to learn from it, and improve. Now the weather is turning it will be interesting to see what challenges running pop-ups in the winter months bring. Although the calendar is pretty full so it doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon.”
So what’s next?
Mark’s enthusiasm and pride for his developing business are evident from how he passionately talks about his journey. In just under a year there is already a faithful crowd of pizza lovers looking forward to each new creation.
“I will keep doing what I am doing, and keep learning. We’re booked in for some pretty big weddings next year which will be exciting. I often get asked by customers if I have permanent premises, or if I would consider one. The answer is not just yet. Pop-ups are fun, and flexible – fitting them in around my full-time job and social life. It’s fantastic being part of a community of like-minded people. We’re all in this together and support each another throughout our collective journeys.
I have re-invested all of my profits so far back into the business to improve the setup. I’m thinking about vehicles a lot – running a pizza business out the back of a tiny car is challenging! Whilst I love the idea of having an all-singing-all-dancing van or maybe even a horsebox etc. I’m loving the flexibility my current setup is giving me. I really can set up shop just about anywhere.”
Where can you find Meanwood Pizza?
You can get your Meanwood Pizza fix at the locations below. Give Meanwood Pizza Co. a follow on Instagram @MeanwoodPizza or Facebook @MeanwoodPizza to keep up to date on pop-up locations during 2023, and to contact for private hire.
Live at Light Space Saturday 10th December (5pm-10pm)
Terminus Christmas Market: Sunday 11th December (12pm – 4pm)
Photographs by Cath Kane.