Parkite serves up a book that tosses out simple advice about making good pizzas at home

‘Free the Pizza’ will be available through Amazon on June 1

Parkite Blaine Parker, known for his homemade pizzas and co-producer of the CoupleCo podcast, has written a book, “Free The Pizza: A Simple System for Making Great Pizza Wherever You Want With the Oven You Already Have,” which will be available June 1 on Amazon.
Photo by Honey Parker

Park City resident Blaine Parker doesn’t consider himself a pizza snob, but he has made a name for himself and his homemade pies with friends, families and colleagues since 2003.

“I’ve never made pizza professionally, but I’ve made pizza in my house for years,” he said. “And people keep telling me that it’s the best pizza they’ve had in years.”

As he developed the knack for making savory pizzas at home, Parker began tossing around the idea of writing a book. He decided to go all in after the coronavirus shut down the world.

The result is “Free The Pizza: A Simple System for Making Great Pizza Wherever You Want With the Oven You Already Have,” which will be released on June 1 on Amazon. Presale orders for Kindle are now open, and print copy orders will open Wednesday.

The book isn’t a cookbook. Instead, it’s more of a guide about how to unlock simple secrets to making tasty pizzas in a standard oven.

“Making a good pizza isn’t that hard,” he said. “It just takes a little understanding, patience and courage. So I wanted to write a book that showed them they could make good pizzas by just understanding pizzas and provide some simple basic steps to follow.”

To help people understand pizza, Parker gives a short history of pizza.

“If you understand where pizza started and how it got here, and the metamorphosis it went through to become the American-style pizza, then you kind of understand what you’re trying to create better than a recipe,” he said.

As for simple steps, Parker started by describing the tools needed to make a good pizza.

“When COVID rolled around, I saw a lot of people buying pizza ovens,” Parker said. “These ovens would range anywhere from $300 to several thousand dollars.”

Many of these ovens collected dust in Parker’s friends’ garages.

“They all came to the conclusion that the oven doesn’t make the pizza,” he said.

While some recipes will call for wood-fired ovens that heat between 800 to 1000 degrees, most pizzerias have deck ovens that heat up to only 500 to 525 degrees, according to Parker.

“These ovens are not that much different than what you have at home,” he said. “What you really need is the right baking surface — stone or steel. And it gets easier if you have a peel, the big spatula-like thing that is used to lift the pizza out of the oven.”

Parker said the peel tends to intimidate first-time users.

“They worry that they’ll flip the pizza over and turn it into a messy calzone at the bottom of the oven,” he said. “But it’s not that hard to use with a little practice.”

Park City resident and CoupleCo podcast co-creator Blaine Parker sees his new book, “Free the Pizza” as a guide about how to make tasty pizzas in a standard oven, rather than a cookbook.
Courtesy of Honey Parker

The next step in making a good pizza is making the right dough.

“There are many dough recipes out there that are really bad, and it’s also important to know that you can’t make good dough quickly,” he said. “When you make dough, you should wait a couple of days before you use it, because fermented dough changes everything. It’s like homebrewed beer.”

If people want to make a pizza in one day, they should premake the dough and freeze it, Parker said.

“That way the active time of making the pizza is a few hours to thaw out the dough and then adding the toppings and baking the pizza,” he said.

One of Parker’s first pizza memories takes him back to when he was three or four years old.

“There was a pizzeria who would send you home with a partly- baked pizza and when you got home, you would put it back in the oven to finish baking,” he said.

The best pizzas Parker has tasted are made from Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles and Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix.

“For a while Chris Bianco was considered the best pizza maker in the country,” he said.

One year, Parker and his wife Honey traveled to Phoenix to try out a Bianco pizza.

“We were sitting at the bar, and I told the bartender to tell Chris whatever he wants, and he made a white pizza with a house-made sausage, red onion and rosemary,” Parker said. “I took a bite and turned to Honey, who hates rosemary, and said, ‘You have to try this.’ She did and said, ‘Oh, my god.'”

As Parker wrapped up writing his book, he knew he wanted someone who would give him validation to write the foreword.

That’s when he asked Chef John Courtney, managing partner of the Chop Shop at Newpark and one of the Food Network’s “Chopped” champions.

The Parkers had met Courtney and his wife Paige through mutual friends and interviewed them for an episode of their CoupleCo podcast that showcases married couples who work together.

“They recorded the podcast in the Courtneys’ backyard, and the unedited interview ended up running almost two hours long,” Courtney said.

“Honey said you could hear how we became friends during the course of the uncut interview,” he said.

“Free The Pizza: A Simple System for Making Great Pizza Wherever You Want With the Oven You Already Have” author Blaine Parker, left, asked Chop Shop managing partner Chef John Courtney to write the foreword of the book.
Photo by Honey Parker

Courtney was taken aback when Parker asked him to write the foreword to the book.

“There isn’t anything literary about me,” Courtney said with a laugh. “I love math and science, and cookbooks are great because there is math in them along with other things I’m drawn to. So, when he asked me to write the forward, I felt flattered but immensely scared.”

Not wanting to let Parker down, Courtney did some research about forewords.

“That got me into bookstores where I would actually pick up books,” he said with another laugh. “I found out a forward, from what I investigated, was about the relationship between you and the writer and how you connect with the content in the book, and how you validate what they are saying.”

Writing the foreword was a challenge for Courtney because it required writing about some of his accolades.

“I don’t like writing about things like that, but they are important because they are something that ties me to said content in the book,” he said.

Another challenge was getting used to writing long sentences and paragraphs.

“You have to remember that I have spent the last 18 to 20 years writing menu descriptions, which are no longer than five words that tell you about a dish of food,” he said, laughing. “Blaine asked for something between 500 to 2,000 words, so I wanted to hit somewhere in the 900 range. That way I would feel like I didn’t underdeliver but I also didn’t throw up and oversell things.”

Parker is honored Courtney accepted the challenge.

“John is the validation to say what I’m doing is real,” he said. “I’m flattered John was willing to take the time to write it. And it worked out great. At the end of the day Free The Pizza is about making people happy. Everybody’s happy when they’re eating good pizza.”

Honey Parker said the book is a reflection of her husband’s love of pizza, and she is grateful that the public will get a chance to see what he has been able to cook up at his friends’ private homes across the country.

“I feel like it’s a gift that he can do this,” she said. “While it meant 20 more pounds for me, because pizzas keep showing up anytime of day, we do a pizza night every week with a friend here, and it’s like a family bonding thing.”

Blaine Parker’s “Free The Pizza: A Simple System for Making Great Pizza Wherever You Want With the Oven You Already Have” will be available June 1 on Amazon. Kindle edition is already in preorder. Print orders are printed on demand.

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