Posts Tagged ‘big dave ostrander’

Pizza Paul Nyland; Best in the Business

pizza paul and meii

There I stood in white-hot Ohio sun in my parking lot shaking hands with guy I didn’t even know. It was 2003 and I had been in the pizza business for three years and I really didn’t have time for this. Gordon Food Service had told me they were gonna send a consultant this day but I told them I didn’t need anyone telling me how to run my business. I had forgotten the date and they evidently sent him anyway.

“So Johnny, my name is Paul and pizza is my business, that’s why they call me Pizza Paul.” he said happily as he handed me his Gordon Food Service card that indeed said, ‘Pizza Paul Nyland’ written in large letters on it. “I’m just doing the rounds and would like to show you how to boost the revenue in this fine place.”

“I’m really not inter…” I said abruptly looking away.

“Okay John, let me ask you one thing and I’ll leave.” Paul said holding his palms up in surrender.

“Okay, shoot.”

“Have you ever tried calzones? They are a great revenue generator because they are so good. I can show you how to…”

“Sorry Paul, I’ve been in the restaurant busin…”

“Lemme ask you another thing, Paul said as he reached in his car and pulled a case of cheese off the seat. “How many other pizza places have calzones around here?” He shoved the case in my chest and walked to the front door of my pizzeria.

“Well, I don’t think any…”

“See, you’ll be the first to make calzones if you just let me show you…” he said opening the door and entering. I stood and rolled my eyes in frustration, this guy was not taking the hint to hit the road and he was literally busting into my store. When I stepped into my lobby Paul stepped uncomfortably close and whispered. “Johnny, tell me, who was the first President?”

“George Washington.”

“HA! See everybody knows that! Now, who was the second?” Paul said smiling like he just stole a million dollars.

“John Adams.” Paul’s smile melted in disappointment and he fidgeted.

“Okay John, then who was the third?”

“Thomas Jefferson.” Paul swung around and said, “Nice place you got here, okay who was the fifth President of these United States?”

“Uh, I can’t recall right now.” I said honestly.

“BINGO,” Paul screamed. ” You see Johnny!” Everyone remembers the first person to do something but never the second. THATS WHY YOU NEED TO DO CALZONES!” he pointed to the sky like a preacher which made me smile.

“But…” Paul didn’t give me time to finish.

“This case of cheese if for you my man!” Paul pointed to it. “It’s a new blend from your friends at Gordon Food Service! Now lets make calzones!” he said like a  General as he walked into my kitchen and instantly introduced himself to my young staff!

That day, Pizza Paul Nyland not only changed my menu, he changed the way I looked at Pizza and I made a friend for life! I’ll never forget that first calzone he made a blend of mozzarella and provolone, canned mushrooms and pepperoni. The combination of his enthusiasm and the luscious, fatty and messy way the calzones tasted was irresistible. Paul stuck his mug into each of our faces saying, “Best thing you ever had, huh? huh? huh? as the crisp dough slathered with garlic butter and copious amounts of Parmesan cheese disappeared. As my staff wiped the grease from their chins and slapped Paul on the back, I knew I was hooked on calzones.

Now, over eleven years later, every one of the 81 pizzas I have on my menu can be made into calzones and every year  I saw Pizza Paul at the pizza conventions I would fill him in on my new calzone variants like stuffed ciabatta and stuffed fougasse. I don’t think I ever saw him without a smile on his face and he was never condescending or judgmental, always looking at the bright things in life!

brynne and pizza paul

In 2004, my Manager, Brynne Humpreys accepted the award for Best Gourmet Pizza from Pizza Paul at the NAPICS show in Columbus. (With Big Dave Ostrander, on the left.)

Paul and guys like him are a huge reason why I just love the business of pizza so much. It’s such a small fraternity of dedicated and fanatical obsessives with only one thing in mind- the craftsmanship and love of pizza!

pizza paul and pat miller

Pizza Paul was a tough judge a World Pizza Games at the International Pizza Expo hosted by Pizza Today Magazine last year. Talented Pat Miller of Slice of New York is on right.

With Pauls’ passing, I figure we all try to surround ourselves with people we love and understand. But there are others on the periphery of our lives who’s orbits and interests intersect with ours only once or twice a year creating a bond of commonality that only strengthens with each meeting. As the years zing by, we all get older, smarter and more reflective about our relationships and we start to look forward to seeing those people who have influenced our lives and made us smile so much. After all, it’s not the amount of time that makes a friendship, it’s the intensity, honesty and happiness a real friend brings.

Thank you Pizza Paul Nyland! You were one-of-a-kind.        (Oh, by the way, the fifth President was James Monroe!)



Whatta Blast! A look at the International Pizza Expo

Theo Kalogerakos, from Austrailia. Pizza Maker of the Year 2010 (and an awesome bloke, indeed!)

I’ve been attending the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas since 2004 and have so many photos and pictures that I’ve decided to share them. Every year, I am constantly amazed at how great this show is. It is put together by the folks at Pizza Today magazine.

In 2004, my California Pizza rocked (left) but Doug Ferriman, Owner of Crazy Dough’s in Boston won with his monstrous pie (right) of oven dried tomato, basil, Gorgonzola, mozzarella and pine nuts. Doug also won Pizza Maker of the Year in 2007.

The people I meet every year are the best in the industry. Some have multiple stores, some have a single store, some have been in the biz for 30 years, some are just starting. The new products, new ideas and new equipment are everywhere. But I love the competition of the International Pizza Challenge the best.

Andrew Scudera and Scot Cosentino (above) from Goodfella’s Pizza in Staten Island have won in Vegas more times than I can count on my hands and feet.

Pasqualino and Carmelo Oliveri from Canada…(The French part.)

The speakers like Big Dave Ostrander, Sean Brauser, Chef Glen Cybulski and Kamaron Karrington always have great ideas. They keep up with trends and are able to offer you all the information you need for success, and that one nugget of information that can transform your business (or attitude) into the fast lane of making better pizza and more money.

Kristian and Leslie Kaiser look nice and smiley enough, but will obliterate you in competition with their fabulous Avers Pies.

Masters of Pizza, Tony Gemignani (top) and Bruno di Fabio, are both winners of “Best Pizza in the U.S.A.” at the World Pizza Championships. They’re always a great sight to see at the Pizza Expo. (Tony was just featured in Saveur magazine’s Top 100 culinary experts of the year.)

The culinary demonstrations from the likes of World Champion and Culinary Expert Tony Gemignani, Chef and Restuarant Critic Pat Bruno and Chef Jeff Frehof are fabulous because they let you ask questions as they cook. And the best part is that you can eat their great food after they are done. Yum.

Dave and Linda Winchester, owners of Black Rock Pizza always seem to win in Vegas (top). Jeremy from Romeo’s Pizza constantly looks down on me and my also-ran guanciale and fig jam schiacciata.

I cannot forget the World Pizza Games that take place also. These will also knock your sock off. One of the best of the best is world champion Justin Wadstein. Here is Justin showing why he has won Best Pizza Acrobat in the World:

Akaogi Kazuya, always a great competitor at the World Pizza Championships in Italy, does his stuff to Mickey Mouse theme song:

To compete against the best pizza makers in the world is both exhilarating and humbling.  Just when you think you’ve got the best pizza in the world, a guy from Staten Island pulls out lobster and blueberries with a braided crust. Or you look up to see an amazing pizza that could, should and would kill your chances at fame and fortune.

Leo Spizzerri from Chicago is the master of the deep dish (top). The judges get particularly serious in Vegas. The head judge is Domenico Crolla from Scotland (other end of table) and he directs other judges consisting of chefs from all over the world.

Rick and Jane Mines of Nima’s Pizza killed all comers with their fabulous baking skills in 2010 and came in as finalists.

The Italians are tough to beat! Eddy Rossignoli of Venezia, Italy (top) won 2nd place in 2010 and Grazziano Bertuzzo of Pizzeria Brian in Lecce, Italy won Pizzaiola of the Year in 2009.

Bruno di Fabio, myself, and Willy O, who scored big with a non-gluten pie.

All in all, there’s nothing like all the pizza friends I get to see in Vegas.. Well, $15 grand is a great substitute though. Below is Graziano making his top pizza in 2009.

See you there in March!