Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Magnificent Obsessions: From a Cube to a Pizza

There are people in the world who have the energy and drive to create magnificent obsessions. Jeff Varasano is a person who has obsessed magnificently at least twice in his life.

In the 80s I picked up a small book that detailed a method of solving the Rubik's Cube in under 45 seconds. Jeff Conquers the Cube in 45 Seconds - and you can to (also out as Conquer the Cube in 45 Seconds) was how I learned to solve the cube quickly. At the time most of the early published solutions were based on solving the cube layer by layer. You formed the bottom layer, filled in the middle, and then finished with the top layer. Jeff's version was to work from the corners in. The technique also had the option of simpler bits (sections that you could complete using only a couple of combinations but you may have to do them several times in a row) or more complicated bits (solving the same sections in fewer moves but you had to remember more move combinations). His method was good enough at the time to let him set a world record of 24.67 seconds at the age of 14.

I can blame thank Jeff for writing the book that I absorbed and memorized and that gave me some serious pre-computer geek cred. Everyone else in my high school who learned the cube used clunkier methods and they couldn't compete with me.

That's obsession number one. AN obsession that hasn't made a lasting impact on the web except that his method is still talked about and listed in various comparisons of how to do the cube. Jeff's second obsession, the one that has left an impact on the web, happened because he moved from New York to Atlanta.

Now there's nothing wrong with Atlanta. Great city. Great people. But... according to Jeff the pizza in Atlanta is awful. Nothing like the thin, quick cooked New York city pies he loved growing up. So what's a person to do?

Obsessively try to recreate New York pizza of course. While documenting every step of the way. From which flour and water. To how to get the dough just right. To which toppings to use. To how to jury-rig home ovens to get hot enough (he doesn't give details... but the secret is to bypass the locking mechanism and to use the high heat cleaning cycle). It's all there on his site. With links to what he considers the best pizzerias in the country, lots of pictures of how the perfect pie should look, and helpful advice on how to do it yourself.

I stumbled across Jeff's pizza page a couple of years ago when he was in full obsession mode but before he opened a restaurant in downtown Atlanta to finally bring good pizza to his new hometown. Varasano's Pizzeria is the obvious conclusion to this second obsession. Luckily he's kept all the details on how to create the perfect pie online for all of us to consider trying out ourselves.

I wonder if Jeff has another act to play out now that his restaurant is open? Will he be happy running his restaurant and sharing the perfect pizza? Or will he start obsessing about something else? Only time will tell.

1 comment:

Lene Andersen said...

Um... pizza...

Sorry, were was I? Oh yes, obsessions. Dude's certainly got a one-track mind when he gets going.