An amateur chef in Guatemala became famous for turning the country’s Pacaya Volcano into a pop-up pizza parlor that serves fresh, volcanic-baked pizza to tourists.
Mario David García Mansilla grew up in the shadow of Pacaya, one of Guatemala’s most active volcanoes, and while he loved his home enough to know he never wanted to leave, he never thought he’d turn the volcano into a pizza oven. would use. Today, its now popular Pizza Pacaya has become one of the highlights of a visit to the active volcano, with tourists paying a premium to let Mansilla cook its delicious pies on the smoldering volcanic rock, right next to flowing rivers of lava.
Mario David García Mansilla, born in San Vicente Pacaya, one of the 21 small human settlements around the Pacaya volcano, has always been fascinated by the volcano, but it was only in 2014 that he came up with the idea to use the intense heat it originates from cooking pizza. He went up the mountain one day to see what was going on, and happened to see a group of tourists roasting marshmallows over the lava. Then it occurred to him…
Mario, a trained accountant, realized that he could literally cook on the volcano, which would not only allow him to pursue his culinary passion but potentially earn some money from it. However, the start was rough. The amateur chef first tried roasting steaks or braising chicken, but soon realized he would need too many utensils to prepare and serve the food. Then he saw the cave-like structures formed from dried lava and immediately thought of pizza.
The first time he tried to use the intense heat of the volcano to cook pizza, Mansilla burned it to a crispy crust. The second was just as bad, but his third was a perfectly cooked masterpiece, with a golden crust and topped with melted cheese. He had found the perfect dish to cook on Pacaya.
It took Mario David García Mansilla a whopping 5 years to turn his passion for pizza into a business, and Pizza Pacaya finally opened its doors in 2019. Thankfully, his idea didn’t take long to get off the ground, and now he’s climbing. almost the volcano daily, carrying a backpack with about 60 pounds of equipment and ingredients, to cook pizza for tourists.
Mansilla has two ways to cook its now famous volcanic pizza. He either places the tray in one of the many kiln-like caves on Pacaya, or simply sets it down on the hardened lava next to the slow-flowing river of molten rock. The latter is more strenuous on his feet, as they are exposed to extreme heat even with military-style boots.
With hundreds of people visiting Pacaya Volcano daily, Pizza Pacaya is almost never without customers, and Mario is content to supplement his income and satisfy his passion for the culinary arts. According to Masilla, the heat is so intense that each container takes no more than 10 minutes to cook.