5 Questions With...
Hugh from Hu’s Pizza
He’s been part of the downtown food establishment for over 20 years. The best kept secret, some would say, and yet hardly anyone knows him by name. He’s Hugh McLennan, owner, operator, cook extraordinaire, and sole staff member at Hu’s Pizza, and he’s here to tell us more.
Why Hu’s Pizza instead of Hugh’s. Were you trying to sound authentically Italian?
I don’t know really. There was never any intent and it certainly doesn’t sound Sicilian or anything, does it? It was so long ago I’ve forgotten. It does get me a lot of Chinese customers who seem slightly disappointed when they see I’m not one of them. But once I get them in the door…
And that’s your business plan in a nutshell isn’t it - you bet on yourself. Once people taste your pizza or your donairs they seem to need to come back, don’t they?
That’s about it. All I wanted to do was make good food. I learned that working for someone else and when the opportunity came to go on my own I took it. That’s why I keep things simple. I am the original one-man band in Fort McMurray. If the food’s crap, I’m screwed.
And you do something different, don’t you? You let people sit down and eat first, then come and pay you as they finish.
It’s just a little thing, but it shows respect for the food, respect for the customer. People come back if you treat them well and feed them well. Teens are the funniest. It’s almost like it’s the first time someone ever trusted them.
And so to the menu. You really only do two things, pizza and donairs. Both are sublime. The pizzas seem lighter and fresher; the donairs are subtle and meaty. Do you change your menu much?
Not really. I’ve taken a while to perfect these two dishes, and I believe they’re really good, maybe the best in town. If customers want more of this or less of that I’ll do it if they insist. But they’re wrong. They should trust the cook. I know what I’m doing, and extra cheese or more onions on the side won’t make the food taste better. It’s all about the balance.
Speaking of balance, you’re a one-man show. When you go home and sit down in front of the TV to watch a game, what do you order for takeout?
I don’t know really. Certainly not pizza. If I want that I’ll make my own and bring it home. I don’t really get out much to eat at other places because when they’re open I’m working. Whatever it is though, it’s gotta be fresh.
Hugh McLennan philosophizes on life, the universe, pizza slices, and donairs at Hu’s Pizza, south east corner of Franklin and Morrison.