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By Jim Kempton

Owning a restaurant in a surf community means hiring surfers. In San Clemente, young men who want flexible schedules and a fun work environment comprise the predominantly available employee pool. Most days, the morning surf satisfied my waiters and cooks who rode waves. They were, on average, as punctual and diligent as anyone you would hire in any laid-back Southern California beach town.

Most had the added benefit of being friends or sons of our patrons. That gave the restaurant an added family atmosphere to our local vibe.

These wave riders also served a useful function as surf forecasters. I always knew a great swell was on the way when, the night before, the first of my six surf guys would call in sick. By 10 a.m. the morning of the swell, two others had come down with a serious virus, unable to make it work. The smart employee would call in just before we opened and say the doctor told him it was a very infectious virus and (as proof) present a physician’s note to stay away from people so the virus didn’t spread. Which proved one other thing: the doctors surfed, too.

Meanwhile, customers would flow through all day long, raving about the perfect swell now hitting. Later in the evening, the invariable employee who hadn’t even bothered to call would leave a message: “Sorry, I came down with a really bad virus. Been laid up all day. Finally feeling better now. Should be in tomorrow. This virus has really taken a lot of people down.” Yep. Surf virus will do that.

Fig Jam Pizza with Goat Cheese, Prosciutto and Arugula

I know, I know; you can’t imagine fig being good on pizza. But it is not just good—it’s epic. I like to use Boboli or thin, ready-made pizza crust. But get any premade crust you like, the thickness is simply a preference. Making pizza crust from scratch is not realistic in many kitchens and impossible on the road.

This recipe is inspired by the menu item at the Privateer restaurant in Oceanside owned by two friends of mine, both hot surfers, surf publishing professionals and great restaurateurs. Don’t miss a visit if you’re in town.

Serves six


Pizza crust

3 tablespoons fig jam

2 tablespoons pasta sauce

1 package thin-sliced prosciutto

1 small log goat cheese (about 5 ounces)

3 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded


Preheat oven or grill to 425 F degrees

Place crust on a round pizza tray, spray or oil tray

Lightly dribble olive oil over crust

Spread fig jam evenly over pizza crust

Spread pasta sauce evenly over pizza crust

Be sure not to overload the crust, as too much sauce will make it soggy and heavy to eat as pieces

Drop small chunks of goat cheese across the crust, make sure there is some on each potential slice.

Sprinkle mozzarella over the whole crust

Tear prosciutto into small I inch strips, and scatter over the crust

Scatter 1 bunch of the Arugula on top of all the toppings

Set pizza in oven or grill and close

Roast for 10 minutes

Check for doneness, let it remain if bottom of crust is not crisp

When done to your liking, remove from heat and let sit for 3 minutes, scatter remaining arugula, and the parmesan cheese on crust. Use a pizza wheel or sharp long knife to cut into six pieces and serve.

Fig Jam Pizza. Photo: Jim Kempton
Fig Jam Pizza. Photo: Jim Kempton

Editor’s Note: Columnist Jim Kempton, lifelong surfer, cook, and writer, has published a book, First We Surf Then We Eat, sharing stories and recipes from his travels around the world in search of waves and adventure. Books are available for purchase online at

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