OUR food business of the week is Brighton’s takeaway and delivery pizzeria Pizzaface. Nick Mosley asks owner Bertie van der Beek about his 12 years producing toppings and dough to go.

Tell us a little about yourself

My name is Bertie van der Beek and am now the grand old age of 35. I grew up in a little village called Lacock in Wiltshire and moved to Brighton in 2005.

My partner Mariya Takeuchi – who is the manager of Boho Gelato in Pool Valley – and I are due to get married this year.

Keeping with the food theme, we actually met at a Brighton and Hove Food and Drink Festival event.

What is your restaurant called, where is it and when was it established?

Our first Pizzaface opened in Kemp Town in 2009. We now also have branches in Hove and Worthing.

Tell us about the food

We just try to make great pizza. We love bold flavours and think about what will complement them.

We have quite an extensive standard menu but always run with monthly seasonal specials which is where the fun lies. We love to team up with other local food businesses, either as long term suppliers or for one-off specials.

Once everyone has got back into the swing and all the restaurants are open we’d love to do some more of these collaborations, where other food businesses design a pizza and provide the toppings.

The Argus: Bertie checks out the fast food kitchens in PompeiiBertie checks out the fast food kitchens in Pompeii

How many on your team and who are they?

Across the sites we now have around 60 staff, many of whom have been with us for years.

How did the idea for your business come about?

I opened Pizzaface shortly after leaving university. Before that, I had worked as a chef for a few years at various places. I’d visited Italy quite a bit and loved the food. At uni I worked as a pizza delivery driver for one of the big chains and saw how busy they could be. So I just thought that if we did that but with a higher quality product, then it should be a great success.

How have you coped during the lockdown?

We were already geared towards takeaway so it was easy for us to adapt to the new restrictions. In Worthing we had to close the dine-in restaurant – along with the attached Boho Gelato – and we lost a whole years of bookings, weddings and events with our mobile pizza oven trailer.

A lot of overheads have gone up sharply but the VAT cut has been helpful in allowing the business to carry on operating.

A lot of businesses are in a precarious state at the moment – rents still need to be paid even when places weren’t allowed to open.

A continued VAT cut for hospitality going forward would be amazing for the industry and – I think – essential for many places to survive.

What would you like to tell people about your business?

We have been going for over a decade but every year feels like a new challenge, the last two especially.

I love being in Brighton as there are always new food and drink places to try. As a business we have to ensure we keep improving – the pizza scene certainly seems to be flourishing right now. You certainly can’t rest on your laurels or you’ll swept away.

What are your plans/hopes for the future?

I always plan to take the next year easy but that never seems to happen. It’s hard to say no to great opportunities.

This month we are opening up at Level1 in Worthing alongside a Bison Beer bar and other local food vendors.

The offering is similar to Sea Lanes in Brighton.

It’s an incredible location with great views over the ocean and with a loads of outdoor space which is clearly a benefit with the current situation. I’ve also just finished building a new wood-fired pizza oven that will be going into a new trailer.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

Our current pizza special uses crickets as a topping.

It might seem strange but they are actually eaten widely across the world. High in protein, they are far more sustainable than other meats, I can see insects becoming a much more common part of our diet.

We toss them with smoked paprika, chipotle chilli and our own Pizzaface hot sauce. They have subtle nutty flavour and the texture of crispy shallots.