Not all Instagram contests are grifts. Just ask Jhy Coulter.
The pizzaiola behind the Devoured pop-up was scrolling Instagram during her years in the kitchen at Webster House when she came across a giveaway for a RoccBox backyard pizza oven run by Instagram-famous Toronto chef Matty Matheson. The post asked followers to like, comment and then share their ideas for adventures they’d have with the RoccBox if they won it.
“I just started going HAM,” Coulter says. “It was stupid, but I really wanted to win. Honestly, I thought those giveaways were a scam. I was like, ‘This shit isn’t real, but I’m going to try anyway.’”
It was real, and she won. That was back in August 2019. Obviously, a lot has changed since. When the pandemic started, Coulter was furloughed from her job as a chef in the executive kitchen for UMB Bank.
“I was like, ‘What do I do during this time?’” she says. “I was unemployed and I was like, ‘Well I might as well pull out the RoccBox.’ Before that, it was just for fun, like for Chiefs games and stuff. But I realized I really like using it. I started watching a bunch of pizza videos on YouTube and trying to perfect the dough. I became obsessed with the process.”
Coulter invited family and friends over to her Hyde Park home for socially distanced pickup pies. They were a hit—and she just kept getting better from there.
For an enthusiastic but average backyard pizza-maker and frequent pizza pop-up attendee (read: me), watching Coulter work a RoccBox is humbling. She shows a steady, practiced hand in every part of the process. She tosses the dough with an effortless flick of the wrist and can eyeball the pie’s progress in the oven while switching the song on her bluetooth radio, prepping the next pie and conducting an interview.
She’s adapted to using the backyard amatuer ovens by making her pies with squared sides so she doesn’t waste an inch of the one-foot stone. Her crust has a perfect puff—Coulter calls it a “cloud crust”—and just a kiss of char. She won’t disclose the types of flours she’s using or even the number of different flours she blends in. But even if you had her crust, her toppings are a level up. I was blown away by a pie with jalapeno bacon jam, black garlic ricotta, pecorino and parmesan. Playing with those flavor combinations is a big part of the fun, she says.
“If you obsess enough about it, then you can make the pie you want,” she says. “It takes a long time. There are still moments where I’m like, ‘This isn’t perfect.’ I’m always making improvements. I’m always making tweaks.”