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The Anonymous Professor Doctor of Pizza Attempting to Rate Every Pizza Found in Hong Kong
by: Rubin Verebes
November 17, 2021
As the proverb goes, “behind every successful man there stands a woman,” lauding the achievements of a man, made possible by the support of his female partner.
The comparatively less known proverb, “behind every successful man is a successful pizza-rating Instagram account,” may not run true for every male living on earth.
However, it does for the anonymous 35-year-old man from Switzerland living in Hong Kong, who made it his life mission to try and review every restaurant and takeaway shop pizza in the city on his Instagram account.
After moving to Hong Kong four years ago for a job in the corporate world, Prof. Dr. Pizza (@profdrpizza) joined his affection for pizza and compulsion for travel to create his Instagram account that attempted to rate every pizza in Hong Kong on a scale of one to 10 and discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly of a slice.
Gaining notoriety in Hong Kong’s inner pizza world, the Professor Doctor has reviewed 333 pizzas across the city (as of Nov. 16, 2021), “visited almost every pizzeria in Hong Kong,” and joins the “fight for better pizza quality worldwide.”
The Beat Asia reached out to the Professor Doctor of Pizza on Instagram and was granted an exclusive interview with the man behind the magic, under complete anonymity.
The Professor Doctor began his Instagram account almost four years ago when he first arrived in Hong Kong and pondered about his ability to source tomato sauce and cheese on a thin toasted slice of bread. “As I was sitting in the bus from the airport to the city, one of the questions that randomly popped up in my head was whether I would even be able to find a pizzeria here. It didn’t seem that obvious to me at that moment!”
His bus, leaving Chep Lap Kok and the airport, navigated through Tung Chung, Kowloon West, Yau Ma Tei, and through to Hung Hom, where he observed a high amount of Pizza Hut branches, but a lack of Italian restaurants.
“This started to worry me even more. From that day on, I have been on the lookout for pizzerias across the city and I quickly noticed that the pizza variety is much bigger than I first thought,” the Swiss corporate worker told The Beat Asia.
“As I started to talk to locals about their favourite pizza places, I expanded my knowledge, but I also realized that there are a lot of misconceptions about this dish. And this is when I realized that I want to analyze Hong Kong’s pizza market a bit deeper.”
On a trip to Cheung Chau Island in August 2018, the Professor Doctor sat down at Fresh Basil Pizza, a small Cantonese-run pizzeria on the edge of the island town. After visiting, he created the Instagram account and started recording his musings and experiences of eating pizza in the city, not “expect[ing] that it would actually grow into a community!”
What began was a mission to try every pizza offered on a restaurant or takeaway menu in the city – Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, New Territories, and the Outlying Islands - no cheese and tomato slice was excluded nor blacklisted. The Professor Doctor realized quickly that his mission would be “endless.”
“Restaurants come and go so quickly in this city, so I continuously feel that I have some catch-up to do. Even if I stay in Hong Kong for the rest of my life, I’m convinced that this mission will never be fully accomplished. I still have the firm determination though.”
Each pizza on his Instagram account reviewed earns a dedicated photo series of the pizza from a top-down view, up close, and the venue itself, and a 250-word review of the restaurant, ambiance, price, quality, and the taste of the cheese, crust, tomato sauce, basil, and other additional toppings.
In his reviews, each pizza is given a score from one to 10. As explained by the Professor Doctor in his “Education” story highlights on his Instagram account, he follows a rough guideline of what a perfect 10 out of 10 pizza score would consist of:
- 3 points are awarded for the dough (texture, consistency, and freshness)
- 2 points for the toppings (quality, look, and taste)
- 3 points for the overall taste of the pizza
- 2 points for authenticity, specialness, and favourability
The Professor Doctor says “it’s important to note that this scoring guideline is rather rough because making a good pizza is not only a science but also an art. Sometimes it’s not easy to capture the awesomeness of a pizza with strict, objective measures.”
“As cheesy as it might sound (no pun intended), a ‘“good pizza’” always needs to be made with heart. On the other hand, when a pizza is made without heart, it almost always results in a bad dish. Those will typically be the type of pizzas with a terrible, dried-out dough, inferior cheese quality, and an uninspired presentation.”
When asked about his most favourite and worst pizzas, the Swissman was quick to judge.
In 2020, he began to publish his annual “Prof. Dr. Pizza Awards,” a December event held on his Instagram account, that awards prizes to the pizzas he had tasted throughout last year in nine different categories: Best Newcomer, Best Taste, Best Looks, Best Value, Best Toppings, Best Dough, Best Pizza, “So Special” Award, and the People’s Choice.
Last year’s “Best Pizza” award went to 208 Duecento Otto in Sheung Wan and their Pizza Diavola. The worst pizza he has eaten to date, with a dismal score of 2/10, a first since he created the account, was the Five Cheese Pizza at Greenhouse in Causeway Bay.
“I have had other disastrous pizzas in the years before, but I’ve never given a 1/10 score – this is reserved for the type of pizzas that are so bad that I cannot even bring them down my throat,” he says.
The schedule, categories, and voting will be announced in the coming weeks for the 2021 awards. “I can already feel that it will be a huge struggle to pick the top five nominees for this category, simply because there are so many great pizza places that opened up just within this year. It’s an exciting place for pizza lovers!”
The Professor Doctor does eat different foods, both Western and Chinese in the city, but his love for pizza and Hong Kong’s pizza scene remains strong.
He claims his affection for eating pizza is rooted in his childhood, with his earliest memories traced back to the smell of pizza emanating from the kitchen of his family home.
“My mother used to make big square pizzas in a baking tray, Sicilian style with a big fluffy dough, topped with tomato sauce and Mozzarella cheese. I didn’t know much about life as a two-year old, but I felt happier each time when the pizza smell flew out of the kitchen straight into my room. Ever since it’s been my favorite dish.”
He is passionate about the pizza scene in Hong Kong in terms of the style and quality of pizza on offer around the city, as compared to his initial shock of arriving in 2018 and finding nothing about standard Pizza Hut varieties. “I’ve tried many pizzas around the world,” he says, “but here in Hong Kong I’ve had some of the best ones and some of the worst one's ever.”
“The most amazing observation about Hong Kong’s pizza scene is how many new places open up all the time. The entrepreneurial spirit in this city is incredible and luckily this becomes very obvious in the restaurant industry.”
Speaking on the issue of anonymity, the Professor Doctor is persistent about not wanting his “handsomeness to distract from the pizza reviews.” He told The Beat Asia that his Instagram account is more topical than personal. “I share some personal experiences and observations from my life in Hong Kong through my IG stories [something funny in the city or a new hiking trail], but my posts will always be focused on pizza only.”
“One of the main reasons why I stay undercover is that I always want to be treated as a regular customer in order to stay unbiased in my reviews. For this reason, I also never accept any invitations or freebies from any restaurants, but always run my reviews at my own schedule and cost.”
Anonymous behind the account and the beautiful red, yellow, and brown slices and pies, the Professor Doctor revealed that he is a “guy from Switzerland who has made Hong Kong his new home and will stay here for an undecided time.”
He makes his salary in the corporate world (a disclosed industry and position), but has a passion for the arts, playing piano, and has a retirement fantasy of running his own jazz bar, with live music and fresh pizza – obviously.
The future of his account? “I will never run [out] of pizza places to review,” the Professor Doctor says.
“Even if I accomplish my mission of trying every place that serves pizza, there will always be a new business opening up a few weeks later.”
With the extremely unlikely hypothetical case that no new pizzerias open or new restaurants that don’t have pizza, there will still exist a great selection of pizzas to try and taste at existing venues.
“Hong Kong businesses are extremely creative with coming up with new topping combinations and I am becoming more and more courageous to try unconventional variations. For example, a few weeks ago I tried my very first pineapple pizza – a line I thought I would never cross! So now there are literally no limits anymore… so what’s next? Kiwi pizza?”
For culinary reasons, we are required to mention that the Professor Doctor of Pizza is neither a trained or licensed medical practitioner nor an academic, but has been self-trained in the art of tasting cheese, tomato, and crust...and he’s very skilled at it!
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