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Brad Sterl

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Organic Pizza Expert

Here, Rustic Crust Founder and President Brad Sterl explains the difference between organic and natural pizza, highlights the benefits of choosing organic processed foods, and offers his top 5 tips for making a great organic pizza.

Brad SterlQ: What distinguishes organic pizza from non-organic pizza?

A: The primary difference is that for organic pizza, ingredients are grown and processed without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, GMOs, synthetic growth hormones, antibiotics, and irradiation.  We feel that these ingredients provide a more authentic pizza.  We have also found that, in many cases, organic ingredients, and the products made from them, just taste better.

Unfortunately, in the minds of many consumers, cost has become a significant factor that distinguishes organic and non-organic products.  There are many excellent reasons why organic goods can be more costly than their non-organic counterparts. Given limitations that exist around the use of pesticides, more labor-intensive farming techniques are used. Fertilizers allowed for use in organic agriculture can be more expensive. Also, due to crop rotation, some of the crops grown on organic farms are used to rejuvenate the soil and may not be marketed. At the same time, organic production reflects the true cost of production. In contrast, there are hidden costs of non-organic production for which everyone will pay indirectly, including damage to water sources, damage to soil resources, damage to wildlife and ecosystem biodiversity, and damage to human health from such things as exposure to pesticides. So, to borrow from a famous ad campaign, “It may be more expensive; but we’re worth it!”

Q: Is there a difference between pizza labeled “natural” and pizza that is labeled “organic?"

A: Yes. The word “natural” can mean many things to many different people.  It has almost become generic.  Consumers are having a hard time validating what is natural vs. un-natural.  Natural products can contain GMOs and pesticides.  In contrast, organic products must be made without the use of those substances. Organic products also carry readily identifiable certification, the USDA Organic seal, which eliminates confusion on the part of the consumer.  Additionally, by law, the growth and production of organic products must be carefully documented, making them traceable from the farm to your table.

Q: What steps do you take to ensure that the organic ingredients in your pizzas are, in fact, organic?

A: In order to guarantee that our ingredients are organic, we trace them from farm to table, and require our producers to make their organic certifications available to us.  These certifications, in turn, are verified by our certifying agency, which oversees our process for producing our organic products.  All of these certificates are updated annually and kept on file for reference. 

Q: Some people think buying organic is only important when it comes to produce items.  Why is it worth it to buy organic processed food as well?

A: Organic grains, dairy and other items can be better for you, taste better and produce better products. Plus, by law, organic products must be made without the use of artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. In addition, by using organic products, we support – either knowingly or not – sustainability of the land via the use of  farming techniques that conserve soil and water and respect the balance of nature.

Q: What are your top five tips for making a great organic pizza at home?

A: Of course, we recommend that you start with a Rustic Crust organic pizza crust as the base and then:

• Bring your family and friends together
• Provide fresh organic ingredients as toppings
• Encourage creativity
• Try new flavors and share ideas
• And have fun building and sharing a delicious, nutritious meal.

About Brad Sterl
Brad Sterl has been in the restaurant/food industry since he was 15 years old.  By 17 he was a manager of The Weathervane Restaurant in Sanford, Maine.  By 20 he had purchased his first restaurant and sold it a few years later. 

In 1991, Brad became a partner in the up and coming New Hampshire based Foodee’s Franchising Inc., the parent company of the Foodee’s – A World of Pizza – a chain of gourmet pizza restaurants.  In 1994, he became President of the franchise company overseeing its rapid expansion -- eventually extending from Maine to New Jersey.

In his executive capacities, Brad spent a lot of time on the day-to-day requirements of running a successful business.  However, his first love has always been in the kitchen developing fun, unique and healthful recipes.  So, it made sense that by 1996 he was easing himself out of his franchise responsibilities and forming Ever Better Eating Inc.– now known by its national brand name, Rustic Crust. 

Maintaining Brad’s vision to develop organic and all-natural products that could compete in the mainstream marketplace, Rustic Crust rapidly made a name for itself in the grocery industry.  Today it is the #1 organic and all-natural pizza crust in the country.  In 2010, the company acquired the worldwide licensing rights to the American Flatbread frozen pizza brand.  Again, placing emphasis on organic and all-natural, high quality ingredients American Flatbread is rapidly gaining placement nationally.

Brad’s quest for superior taste and quality combined with his desire to create a healthy, chemical-free products continues to drive the development of new products for both brands that are all-natural and organic, non-GMO and made with the highest quality ingredients available.

His tenacity, attention to detail, commitment to taste and quality of ingredients combined with his love of cooking and experimenting in the kitchen has earned him the nickname, The Crust Crusader.