An amateur chef in Guatemala has become famous for turning the country’s Pacaya volcano into a pop-up pizzeria that serves fresh volcanically-baked pizza to tourists.

Mario David García Mansilla grew up in the shadow of Pacaya, one of Guatemala’s most active volcanos, and although he loved his home enough to know he never wanted to leave, he never imagined he would one day use the volcano as a pizza oven. Today, his now popular Pizza Pacaya has become one of highlights of visiting the active volcano, with tourists paying a premium to have Mansilla cook his delicious pies right on the smoldering volcanic rock, right next to flowing rivers of lava.

A native of San Vicente Pacaya, one of the 21 small human settlements around the Pacaya volcano, Mario David García Mansilla has always been fascinated by the volcano, but it wasn’t until 2014 that he came up with the idea of using the intense heat it emanates to cook 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. That’s when it hit him…

Mario, a trained accountant, realized he could cook literally on the volcano, which would not only allow him to follow his culinary passion, but also possibly make some money doing it. However, the beginning was rough. The amateur chef first tried to roast steaks or braise chicken, but soon realized he would need to carry too many utensils to prepare and serve the food. Then he noticed the cave like structures that had formed out of dried lava and immediately thought of pizza.

The first time he tried using the intense heat emanating from the volcano to cook pizza, Mansilla burned it to a crisp. The second one came out just as bad, but his third was a perfectly cooked masterpiece, with a golden crust and covered in melted cheese. He had found the perfect dish to cook on Pacaya.

Mario David García Mansilla took no less than 5 years to turn his passion for pizza into a business, and Pizza Pacaya finally opened in 2019. Luckily, it didn’t take long for his idea to take off, and now he climbs the volcano almost daily, bringing with him a backpack containing some 60 pounds of equipment and ingredients, to cook pizza for tourists.

Mansilla has two ways of cooking his now famous volcanic pizza. He either places the tray in one of the many oven-like caves on Pacaya, or simply sets it down on the hardened lava next to the slow-flowing river of melted rock. The latter is more strenuous on his feet, as even with military-style boots on, they are subjected to extreme heat.

With hundreds of people visiting Pacaya volcano on a daily basis, Pizza Pacaya is almost never without customers, and Mario is content to be able to supplement his income and satisfy his passion for the culinary arts.

So how long does it take to cook a pizza on an active volcano? Well, according to Masilla, the heat is so intense that each tray requires no more than 10 minutes to cook.

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