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The Domino’s Cheeseburger Pizza Has a London Ancestor

A tale of two pizzas — and how food trends bow to capitalism

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Domino’s cheeseburger pizza toppings are inspired by Neil Rankin’s London restaurant Temper Domino’s/Domino’s [Official Photo]; Temper/Menu_Eat/Instagram

The Domino’s cheeseburger pizza has a London ancestor: Temper Covent Garden.

On Sunday, chef-restaurateur Neil Rankin — co-owner of Temper’s three restaurants in Soho, the City, and Covent Garden — posted an image of Domino’s’ new ‘cheeseburger’ pizza on Instagram. A traditional tomato-and-mozzarella base is topped with ground beef, sliced gherkins, onion and burger sauce; it was launched by the pizza restaurant delivery juggernaut last week.

“Thanks to all the 1000 people who sent me photos of this...yes I know,” he wrote, before indicating that he felt it bore an uncanny resemblance to Temper’s own much-’grammed cheeseburger pizza, right down to the distribution of the toppings.

Although Rankin felt it was “pretty much a dead cert that [Domino’s] had some inspiration from our cheeseburger pizza,” he acknowledged that Temper wasn’t the first to serve such a dish — similar hybrids have been around in the U.S. for a while, and the cheeseburger is, in itself, axiomatically associated with a few huge players. Any given burger sauce, for example, is likely to stem from a certain golden-arched company.

Rankin also said he found it “immensely flattering that one of the biggest pizza companies in the world would look to us for inspiration.” Domino’s — so ubiquitous that it was the mainstream counterpoint to David Chang’s Ugly Delicious pizza episode, has around 15,000 stores worldwide. Chang, himself the ultimate mainstream counterculturalist of the restaurant world, further revealed his admiration for the pizza chain in the Netflix series.

Rankin was good-humoured about the suggestion of imitation, but in his post he highlighted an ongoing issue for mould-breaking independents — that multinationals almost always end up with more column inches than smaller outfits who’ve been serving near-identical dishes for longer. Hey, capitalism. He goes on: “The only thing that rattles me is the level of press they’ve had.”

Rankin later told Eater London:

“I think influence with food or with any creative medium can often be done unintentionally and is almost unavoidable. There are lots of things I think I’ve invented only to realise I’ve probably subconsciously copied it after I’ve seen it or ate it somewhere else ... Dishes and recipes are there to be copied, shared and developed that’s pretty much how it works but when I copy a dish intentionally and blatantly I always make sure I credit the source ... I think that’s only fair.”

Rankin went on to explain, again, that he finds it “more flattering than annoying. When they stop copying me, that’s when to get upset.”

Food trends follow a predictable cycle — something starts out as transgressive; it reaches a popularity tipping point; it tumbles quickly and inexorably into the mainstream. This time round, Instagram has continued to exert its influence as a conductor of innovation; Rankin’s pizza, and others like it, are forerunners whose ideas are now to a huge organisation’s benefit. Domino’s has no reason to pretend to have invented the pizza; the sobering reality is that it can serve its version to far more diners than Rankin ever could — diners with no compulsion to consider what spawned the idea. Cheeseburgers and pizza are two of the most-ordered takeaway foods on the planet — it’s no wonder their matrimony has piqued the attention of one of the game’s biggest players.

Temper Covent Garden

5 Mercer Walk, London, WC2H 9QP