Pizza Hut 'The Works'

The last time I experienced The Works at Pizza Hut I was 11 years old and had just played a basketball grand final for the Nunawading Kangas. I remember the perfect green jelly squares and the panic to fit as many slices of pizza in my mouth as possible. Pizza Hut season break-up dinners were the reason I played sport as a child and those memories are the reason I boarded a VLine train to Ballarat, 16 years later.

There’s only a few Pizza Huts left in the state that do The Works and they’re all in regional towns. This is probably a tourism initiative. Give me pan fried excess over panning for gold at Sovereign Hill any day.

On arrival, a local under 10s cricket team are a certain kind of hyperactive that only mixing Sunkist, Mountain Dew, 7-Up and Pepsi in the same cup can create. They’ve also cleared out all the margherita. Rude.

You don’t go to Pizza Hut expecting a gourmet experience, but I did find the grey bacon rectangles on three of the pizzas severely off-putting. I’m also a firm believer in not eating pineapple above room temperature, so that rules out another three of the pizzas on offer. So I try the vegetarian and the pepperoni to start. I enjoy the stringiness of the cheese and the chewy crust.

Everyone has one eye on the pizza stand at all times. The staff refill the garlic bread basket with precision and pride, while the customers wait to pounce on the first slice of a new pizza. As soon as the margherita is plonked down, we circle… pretending like it’s a coincidence that we were all there at the same time, avoiding eye contact.

The salad bar is unlike any I’ve come across. Orange quarters, corn chips and tinned peaches sit alongside lettuce and tomatoes. The parmesan cheese is labelled mayonnaise. The Italian salad dressing bottle is full but nothing comes out when you squeeze it. I feel uneasy but I pile a random assortment of crap on my plate. No one else even pretended to eat salad.

I approach the pasta section with fear, having never bothered with it as kid. The bolognese sauce looks a little bit less like a body fluid than the carbonara, so I go with that. The sauce has a sickly sweetness to it that is made more pronounced by the fridge-chilled pasta. Probably the worst part of The Works.

The dessert bar has always been an outlet for creativity and engineering brilliance. I want to see how high I could pile my soft serve, but a little voice inside me asked “are you really going to eat all this? Australians discard over four million tonnes of food every year and you’re definitely about to contribute significantly to that.” Ughhhhh, shut up and let me live. The dessert bar is better than I remember. There’s chocolate mousse and brownies, which are actually yum. Then there are toppings like choc chips, sprinkles, mini marshmallows plus chocolate or strawberry sauce. The jelly is blue and red. Instead of upturning a table about the absence of translucent green squares, I pile both colours in my bowl like a chump.

Yes I went back to the pizza stand. And the dessert bar. But not the pasta trays. Or the salad bar. The Works only works when you stick to what you know.

As I eat my never-ending meal I listen to the mechanical whir of the soft serve machine and watch the infomercials playing on silent TVs. The kids have left and there’s no music. I feel kinda sad. I start pondering life.

Instead of asking the existential questions I asked here as a kid (If you haven’t finished eating when they close, can you stay here all night?) I was asking questions like: do I actually want to eat a whole pizza and three bowls of ice cream or is this some kind of sick form of self punishment? Why did I take six hours out of my day to be here? Am I happy? What even is happiness?

Shit. It’s time to leave. I abandon my scraps, thank the lovely staff and get on the next train. I fall into a food coma and wake up in Footscray. When I get home I make myself a pizza with blue cheese, pear and prosciutto.

This excursion was a cruel reminder that I’m a fucking adult. An adult with morals, perspective, priorities and recently diagnosed diabetes. So boring. So adult. The Works is definitely best as a childhood memory where the jelly is green and your awe and excitement is as endless as the pizza.

This article was published on Three Thousand.