DENHAM SPRINGS – So what happens when a nurse practitioner and plumber combine their talents to create an eatery?

“Gourmet hot pizza,” is Joan Hughes Smith’s reply as the nurse practitioner and Harold Laird, of Laird Plumbing, held a ribbon-cutting on Thursday, May 10, for Cravin Fired Fast Pizza.

“We’re two creative people,” Smith said at their restaurant at 240 Range 12 Blvd.

“It is an awesome concept,” she added, letting customers choose their toppings and using an oven hot enough to cook a pizza in less than 5 minutes.

“We were in an airport and we saw the concept,” Smith recalled, “only taking 3 to 4 minutes to cook the pizza.

“We started planning four years ago, but when it flooded, we lost about 1½ years,” she said.

Smith credited Laird with “building out” the interior, including the bright red tile that decorates the oven.

“We were looking here before the flood and when Rotolo’s didn’t return, we knew we had to come in,” Laird said. “It was a great concept, Denham Springs does not have this.”

“This is not a franchise restaurant,” Smith said.

Laird added, “This is a great idea for the food industry. This will be our first one, but not the last.”

Laird said they have trademarked the Cravin name and will look to expand through franchises.

The oven can hold from 14 to 17 pizzas at one time, manager Darren Young said.

It takes 2½ to 3 hours to fire up the oven to the desired 540-575 degrees, he said.

“By the time you put it in, you have to move it gradually to the right end and it is done,” Young said.

“Even after we turn off the oven, when we come back in the morning it is still 185 degrees when it is turned on again,” he added.

The Cravin staff, which eventually will number up to 20, makes 200 doughballs a day to go with its homemade sauce.

Diners can choose from 30 toppings. When the pizza comes out of the oven balanced on a long paddle, it can be finished with barbecue sauce, oregano, Parmesan, hot sauce, pink Himalayan salt, crushed red pepper, garlic butter, balsamic glaze, siracha and ranch.

The price of a pizza is easy to remember: $8.50 with toppings, $7.50 for a cheese pizza, add $2 if gluten-free dough is ordered.

One decorated wall and photos salute Laird’s career as a National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) drag racer.

In 2007, Laird won the NHRA’s U.S. Nationals pro modified division.

“It’s our Super Bowl,” winning the U.S. Nationals, he said, driving his 1963 split window Corvette, generating 3,800 horsepower, to cover a half-mile in 5 seconds at 250 mph.

Joining the Bass Pro development has been like joining a family, according to Smith.

“This has become a restaurant destination area,” she said of their location amid other eateries.

“We’ve gotten to know each other, We’re not competitors. We all support each other,” she said.

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