Ahead of the season of alfresco hosting, we meet the inspiring entrepreneur behind the UK’s premium portable pizza oven company, Tom Gozney, to find out his top tips for outdoor entertaining.
Having started out on a rocky path and finishing up a stint in rehab, Tom decided he wanted to turn his life around and started looking for ways to socialise without involving alcohol. Through some experimenting and design, he turned to build a pizza oven in his back garden. After realising how quickly it brought people together, Tom quickly dreamed up a pizza-oven vision and Gozney was born. The brand is now loved by a host of household names including Gordon Ramsay, Paul Hollywood and Richard Branson, and supplies ovens for big commercial restaurants including Franco Manca and Pizza Pilgrims.
Following the launch of Gozney’s latest Roccbox, we met up with Tom Gozney to find out more about his story…
Tell us a little bit about your story – have you always wanted to set up your own business?
Yes, I’ve always wanted to set up my own business.
At school, I struggled with dyslexia which left me lacking in confidence, but I was always creative and loved getting hands-on and designing/constructing things. From an early age, I challenged norms – whether that was in class, my approach to creativity or just what I liked in my sandwich. It was clear that I was keen to carve my own path and would struggle with a typical 9-5.
After some challenging teenage years, I ended up sober at 21. Whilst my peers were out partying, I rediscovered my love for engineering and design and ultimately this difficult time in my life where I was trying to find my place in the world ended up helping me find my purpose.
Where did the idea for Gozney come from?
When I first left rehab, I found trying to connect with loved ones whilst maintaining my sobriety a challenge. I was looking for a healthy way to reconnect with my friends and family and then one night we made pizza. Everyone rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in – it was amazing. However, we cooked the pizza in a conventional oven, and it wasn’t great. I knew we could do better.
My curiosity on how to create the perfect pizza quickly became an obsession and I channelled all my energy into it. I decided to build a pizza oven in my garden by hand and the whole process from building it to cooking with live fire became something I could lose myself in – a new skill to master. With long nights spent around the oven chatting and cooking with friends I witnessed the power of live-fire cooking, and it honestly changed my life.
I wanted to share this experience and I realised there was a huge opportunity to make pizza ovens more accessible. Gozney was born and I started building the business brick by brick.
What inspired you to create the latest Roccbox model?
The Yellow Roccbox is inspired by the changing of seasons and the emergence of the sun. It’s been a long winter and Yellow Roccbox is designed to bring a pop of colour to back gardens ahead of the outdoor entertaining season. There’s no better way to bring people together than by cooking outdoors with a live fire, so we have launched this limited-edition shade to bring some fun into garden gatherings this Spring.
The Yellow Roccbox is designed in the same way as our standard Olive and Grey Roccbox, which are already so widely known and loved. The oven is designed to be easy to use regardless of your skill level with a built-in thermometer, wide mouth, silicone SafeTouch jacket and interchangeable wood and gas burners. Roccbox also has a 19mm thick stone floor and dense layers of insulation, giving you professional grade restaurant oven proportions and unbeatable heat retention, so can cook pizza after pizza without a drop in temperature or uneven bake. The oven is also portable with retractable legs meaning you can take it anywhere, from garden to getaway and comes with a free pizza peel included.
What are your top three tips for making great pizzas, with or without a Roccbox?
Make sure the oven is up to a high temperature before you start cooking. This will ensure a classic crispy base and leopard-spotted crust. Be patient – our ovens have unrivalled heat retention qualities, so once it reaches the target temperature you can keep making pizza after pizza.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. Making great pizza is all about trying different flavour combinations and finding out what works. While it is important to master the classics – which are all about simplicity – make sure you have fun while you cook, and let your imagination run wild.
Get stuck in. Pizza tastes so much better when it is fresh and handmade, so make sure you have all hands on deck and get the whole family involved. Kneading dough or choosing toppings is perfect for all ages, and younger ones can feel a real sense of achievement knowing they have contributed to the food they are eating.
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What are your top three tips for outdoor entertaining?
Keep it simple – Whether you’re hosting an Easter lunch for the family or making treats for the kids, outdoor ovens are the perfect way to elevate springtime gatherings as the weather gets warmer. However, we know that entertaining a big crowd can become overwhelming. That’s why our best advice is to keep things simple so you can enjoy the fun too. To avoid being tucked away in the kitchen from family and guests, I recommend cooking something that is low maintenance, such as my Beef Short Ribs. It can be left to smoke at 130 degrees for 5 hours and pairs perfectly with the Ultimate Roast Potatoes and a well-dressed salad – it’s an effortless, yet still delicious, dish and always popular in my house.
Be prepared! – To ensure you can spend more time with family and friends this Easter, do as much prep as you can before guests arrive. Making the time to marinate meats the night before, prep the veg, or set up the garden furniture will help make the day of entertaining easier and stress-free. When it comes to hosting at home, I always organise the kitchen and table the night before, so my focus on the day is solely on catering to my guests and cooking delicious food. Our recipe for Rack of Lamb with Brinjal Potatoes from the fantastic chef Brad Carter spices up the classic Sunday meal, upgrading a simple roast to a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.
Embrace the outdoors – When the sun decides to come out in the UK, you have to soak up every bit of it before it disappears again for another year. Spring is the perfect time to refresh your outdoor space and prepare for the garden party season. After what seems like the longest winter to date, it’s time to invite your loved ones and spend those long summer evenings around a fire with good company and good food. Our portable pizza oven, the Roccbox, is a great way to kick-start your alfresco dining journey. Start simple by cooking a classic Neapolitan pizza to enjoy the most delicious crispy crust, all while bringing out the flavours of the tomato and cheese. With Gozney ovens, you don’t need to be a qualified chef to host an unforgettable pizza night!
Do you have a go-to pizza oven recipe you always come back to?
My go-to recipe has to be a classic Marinara. It’s like bringing Naples into your own home and, even better, it’s made in only 60 seconds. I love making it with a 96-hour fermented dough – it’s wild, light and crispy, with huge crusts and beautiful leopard blisters.
The Dome and Roccbox can create the most delicious crispy crust, all while bringing out the natural flavours of your toppings. This is a great dish for the family to get involved in which is what Gozney is all about. With our ovens, you can make live-fire cooking simple and everyone can get involved – we have a pizza night at least once a week in our household!
You’ve created a successful business model, employing over 75 full-time staff. What advice would you give someone else thinking of starting their own business?
The main piece of advice I would give to someone just beginning their entrepreneurial journey is to stick to your core values, and make sure you believe in yourself and your vision. My personal belief in the power of live-fire cooking in bringing people together has fuelled Gozney as a business and has enabled us to have an extremely strong set of values which underpin everything we do. At the start I had a lot of no’s and setbacks but if you keep persevering you will eventually find people who not only see it but believe in it too.
What is the biggest mistake you’ve made in your career that others can learn from?
When we were launching our next-generation pizza oven, Dome, in 2021 we were completely overwhelmed by the demand – in pre-orders alone we sold out globally in under 8 hours, which drove $8M (£6.5million) in revenue but gave us a new and very real challenge to tackle. We knew we had created an amazing and innovative product, but that demand was unprecedented. We thought we would be able to fulfil all the orders but then COVID crippled our supply chain and shipping timings which ultimately led to us disappointing our customers with severe delays.
It was a period of real growth for the company in so many ways. We have now put safeguards in place throughout our supply chain to avoid us letting our customers down again. But the whole experience was a real reminder for me that the most important thing any business can have is their customers. Ensuring their experience of your brand is as seamless and as enjoyable as possible should always come first.
For more information on Tom Gozney & to shop their full pizza oven range visit