Netflix's 'Chef's Table: Pizza' features Portland's Sarah Minnick and her flower-topped pizzas – Here is Oregon

Sarah Minnick makes pizza at her restaurant, Lovely’s Fifty Fifty, in a scene from the Netflix series, “Chef’s Table: Pizza.” (Photo: Netflix) (Netflix)
Portland food and the people who make it get still more TV attention this week, thanks to Netflix’s “Chef’s Table: Pizza.” The series, created by David Gelb (”Jiro Dreams of Sushi”), has been a Netflix staple since 2015, and in its latest edition, the focus is on pizza and six chefs who stand out for their skills.
One of the six episodes focuses on Sarah Minnick, whose distinctive pizzas featuring unconventional ingredients have helped make her Portland restaurant, Lovely’s Fifty Fifty, a nationally known home for outstanding pizza.
Lovely’s Fifty Fifty, you may recall, was one of the reasons why Nathan Myhrvold and Francisco Migoya, authors of “Modernist Pizza,” claimed in a 2021 Bloomberg interview that Portland was the best pizza city in America. That declaration made news all over the place, and inspired much frenzied argument as to how the Rose City could possibly beat out such pizza capitals as New York City and Chicago.
A post shared by Sarah Minnick (@sarahminnick_)
As The Oregonian/OregonLive noted in 2021 in response to the hubbub, Myhrvold and Migoya pointed to eight Portland pizzas to prove their point — Lovely’s Fifty Fifty, Ken’s Artisan Pizza, Scottie’s, Apizza Scholls, Red Sauce, Handsome, Sizzle Pie, and Nostrana.
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So, it doesn’t come as a huge surprise that the “Chef’s Table: Pizza” series includes Minnick and her highly original creations. Other chefs featured are Chris Bianco, of Phoenix, Arizona; Gabriele Bonci, of Rome, Italy; Ann Kim, of Minneapolis, Minnesota; Franco Pepe, of Caiazzo, Italy; and Yoshihiro Imai, of Kyoto, Japan.
Sarah Minnick, of Lovely’s Fifty Fifty, talks about how she learned to make pizzas in an episode of “Chef’s Table: Pizza.” (Photo: Netflix) (Netflix)
As with some other recent examples of Portland food on TV, such as Netflix’s “Street Food: USA” and Hulu’s “Eater’s Guide to the World,” veteran restaurant critic Karen Brooks appears in Minnick’s “Chef’s Table: Pizza” episode.
The episode begins with images of Portland, including the Willamette River, Music Millennium, Jackpot Records and Cup & Saucer (which closed in March of 2022), and Brooks saying in voiceover, “In Portland, we have DIY and punk ethos running through our city. People have the spunky spirit of being their own entrepreneurs. They launch their own coffee shops, food carts and pizza shops. … What matters here is having something to say, and Sarah Minnick has a lot to say.”
The episode features artful images, some in slow motion, of Minnick harvesting plants from her garden, meeting with farmers, shopping at a farmer’s market, and dining outdoors in scenic locations, all scored to subtle music, and often filmed against moody skies, and fields of blooming flowers.
We also see Minnick talking about how she went from studying art in college to opening Lovely Hula Hands, a Portland restaurant that did well until economic conditions and what Minnick describes as people thinking of it as a special occasion dining destination conspired to make it not financially feasible to continue.
Minnick pivoted to opening Lovely’s Fifty Fifty, a family affair where her sister is the host, her mother is the accountant, and Minnick’s daughter also helps out. Envisioned as a restaurant featuring pizza and ice cream — that’s where the Fifty Fifty concept comes in — the dining spot has emerged as a place where Minnick has embraced innovative, seasonal flavors.
In the 45-minute episode, Minnick recalls how she taught herself to make pizza dough — when she started, she recalls, she came up with “a dry, sad blob” — and how her interest in using seasonal ingredients led her to create pizzas topped not with pepperoni and sausage, but with purslane, flowers, peaches, and other unorthodox choices.
As Brooks says, toppings such as fenugreek, echinacea flowers and mustard greens “would be a war crime in a Jersey slice shop.” Minnick says Brooks’ review of Lovely’s Fifty Fifty in Portland Monthly magazine helped bring more customers in. And Brooks recalls going to the restaurant, taking a bite of pizza, and noting there was hardly any sauce or cheese, but instead there were “flavors that you do not associated with pizza: sour, floral, spice and funk. It was enchanting, it was idiosyncratic, it was what happens when you no longer care about New York pizza cred, or Neapolitan purity, only happiness. And that’s a Portland pizza.”
Since this is a food show, there are several picturesque images of Lovely’s Fifty Fifty creations such as a pizza topped with Yukon gold potatoes, and fenugreek greens; chamomile and walnut-popcorn toffee ice cream; fig leaf ice cream; a pizza topped with quinoa greens and fermented tomatoes; another topped with mixed flowers and cherry tomatoes; and another topped with amaranth greens and grapes.
All six episodes of “Chef’s Table: Pizza,” begin streaming Wednesday on Netflix.
— Kristi Turnquist
503-221-8227;; @Kristiturnquist
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