Back in the early 2000s, Yosuke Masuko’s obsession for pizza drove him to build his own wood-fired pizza oven in his Tokyo backyard.
By 2008, he’d relocated to Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, as the country director for a venture capital firm, forcing him to leave behind that oven somewhere in a suburban ward of Tokyo.
In a New York Times article back in 2014, he described himself as a “pizza maniac” – by then, he’d already invested heavily in opening his own pizza joint in a quiet alley off Le Thanh Ton Street in Ho Chi Minh City’s unofficial Japan Town called Pizza 4P’s – Platform of Personal Pizza for Peace.
That was in May 2011.
We use what we call a cricket meat paste with a soybean and bean combo mix with mushroom patty topped with a vegan mayonnaise and house-made BBQ sauce
Fast forward a decade, there are now over 20 Pizza 4P’s restaurants in Vietnam and the brand has become a household name in a country where its people rarely stray from their traditional staples for dinner at rowdy quan nhau eateries up and down the country.
The Vietnamese have taken to Pizza 4P’s like a duck to water and are beginning to understand and embrace its drive for sustainability.
Now, Pizza 4P’s has entered neighbouring Cambodia with its first restaurant opening in July this year in its capital, Phnom Penh.
Yosuke took time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions about using bullet casings for the restaurant’s signs and pizza servers, cricket burgers and upcycled flour bags for pizza delivery.
1. What’s the history behind the spent bullet casings in the construction of the Phnom Penh store?
When we met the guys behind ANDKOW & CO in Cambodia, we became aware that they already had a project called “Forks For Folks” which turns what were once weapons made to kill people into objects that save people.
When we learned about this, we realised that we had aligning values, especially as our vision at Pizza 4P’s is to “make the world smile for peace.”
As a result, we collaborated to construct our pizza servers, along with all of our restaurant signage, from used bullets.
Our overarching message is that things that are made to kill people can be turned into things that help share happiness and peace.
Our pizza server is a great example of that because pizza is something we can share and it also brings happiness and peace.
2. Tell us briefly about the recycled lumber used throughout the store.
The lumber has been recycled from demolished houses and we’ve used it for the wooden floors, luggage boxes for our guests and the trays for our pizza counter tables.
For the collaboration, we worked with a local architecture firm called Niron House that had already built a zero waste concept house before in Cambodia.
3. Describe the flour bags that you upcycle to use as delivery bags.
The bags that our pizza flour comes in is a durable and waterproof material that’s similar to the material cement bags are made from.
Previously, the flour bags would’ve been thrown away, but now they’re recycled to make custom-made bags that fit the size of our take-away pizza boxes.
4. What does your cricket burger taste like?
The cricket burger that’s currently served in Vietnam is made from whole dried crickets and they taste similar to dried shrimp.
For the burger, we use what we call a cricket meat paste with a soybean and bean combo mix with mushroom patty topped with a vegan mayonnaise and house-made BBQ sauce.
It has a strong umami flavour that’s entovegan yet satisfying and rich in flavour.
5. What exactly is Pizza 4P’s definition of zero waste?
Our aim is to make the amount of waste disposal in our stores as close to zero as possible. In order to reduce the amount of trash produced by our restaurants, we use recyclable materials whenever possible.
6. What are the main issues you face in general when it comes to trying to achieve zero waste in countries like Vietnam and Cambodia?
It costs. For example, single-use items such as plastic bags and straws are much cheaper to use than environmentally friendly alternatives.
There’s also a significant cost to have bottles and plastic waste to be collected for recycling.
And it takes time to sort and manage the waste disposal process.
Another challenge is training. It’s not easy to train our employees because there hasn’t been a history and culture of sorting and managing waste in both countries, therefore, there’s little social awareness of the issues surrounding garbage disposal.
7. Help us gain a grasp of how quickly Pizza 4P’s has transitioned from once using a lot of plastic and one-use items previously, to doing its best to eliminate it in every way now.
Since a Japanese sustainability manager joined us three years ago, we’ve been working on various sustainable activities, and eliminating garbage has been one of those activities.
However, to be frank, it’s quite difficult to achieve the level that we’d like and things aren’t quite there yet in Vietnam.
We already have a lot of stores in Vietnam that we’re juggling in terms of current operations and guest expectations, so we’re always trying to balance between costs and operational constraints versus how we can be more sustainable.
When we started our plan to expand into Cambodia, we were determined to achieve the “ideal concept” in terms of sustainability while maintaining our quality and experience standards for the first store in a new market.
In Phnom Penh, there are actually many small recyclers and NGOs, in fact, more than in Vietnam, so there are fewer operational constraints in that sense.
From the beginning, when we interviewed potential partners – we call our employees “partners” – the interviews were very much based around our concept of sustainability and we only hired those who shared our philosophy and we conducted training sessions for them after their hiring.
The first Phnom Penh store is a small step, but it’s making a large impact not only in Cambodia, but we also expect it to inspire the Vietnam market and encourage all of our locations to reduce the timeframe to achieve our company goals.
Edited by Matthew Cowan
* This is not a sponsored post
All photos used with the permission of Pizza 4P’s