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Life in the fast lane

Guy Quenneville
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, April 15, 2010

LIIDLII KUE/FORT SIMPSON - Got a hankering for some fresh hot 'za from the Northern Store's Pizza Hut Express counter? Then Darren Gargan is your man.

As department manager at Fort Simpson's only grocery store, Gargan not only oversees the pizza counter but also the store's bakery, convenience store and deli counter.

NNSL photo/graphic

Darren Gargan, department manager at Fort Simpson's Northern Store, oversees the Pizza Hut Express counter. According to Gargan, residents of Fort Simpson especially enjoy pepperoni and cheese and Hawaiian pizzas. - Guy Quenneville/NNSL photo

But the section that keeps him on his toes is Pizza Hut, which clears an average of $200 a day, said the 27-year-old Gargan.

"Maybe 10 mediums, 35 small, a couple breadsticks a day. That doesn't even include government paydays. That's another moneymaker for me," he said.

On Friday afternoon, Gargan was on the cusp of one his busiest weekends of the year - the Connie Loutit Memorial Soccer Tournament.

Eyeing a gaggle of kids brushing through the front door of the store, Gargan said, with a hint of weariness, "I'm just waiting for the kids to pile in."

On one soccer weekend, the Pizza Hut Express made a whopping $1,000.

On most days, Gargan arrives at the store at 8 a.m. From the moment he arrives, he gets cooking - and not just pizza.

Five days a week, he makes rotisserie chickens.

The express lane is also equipped with a machine that looks like a tall, bloated microwave oven called the Rational SelfCooking Centre.

"This is my baby," said Gargan, giving the machine a loving tap. "This thing is (worth) 30 grand. This is more than I make in a year."

Rational's website says of the machine: "... you can relax in the knowledge that the demanding daily kitchen routine is under control: you can bake, roast, steam, blanch, poach and much more, all in a single unit."

Gargan gave his own testimonial.

"It does everything. You can cook steak. I cooked two turkeys in here in less than two hours."

As for the pizzas, once the dough is topped off with ingredients (cheese always goes under the pepperoni, as per Pizza Hut regulations), they are placed on the highest of two conveyor belts on a Lincoln Impinger pizza oven.

It takes an average of eight minutes for one pizza to get cooked, after which it's inserted in a box and into the hands of a smiling customer.

The Impinger's bottom conveyor is broken, and has been for a while.

"This thing has been through a lot," said Gargan of the oven. "We've had to repair it several times. Every time we fix (the bottom conveyor), we need a new part, and we have to get parts from down south."

When Gargan received a phone order for 30 medium pizzas, he had to do it all using the one conveyor.

"We started at 9 in the morning, and we were done at about 11," he said.

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