From the Editor: 40 years of Vegas Pizza Expo!
By By Colleen CrossFeatures Business and Operations Trends trade shows
On my first visit to Pizza Expo, I met Tony G!
Those who know, know. For those who don’t know, Tony Gemignani is a world-renowned pizzaiolo and chef who has won many world titles in pizza making, opened many restaurants and pizza concepts in San Francisco and beyond. He delights in sharing his knowledge and the industry benefits hugely from studying his innovative culinary and business moves. Hanging out at the competition area, he smiled, shook my hand, welcomed me and couldn’t have been nicer.
That was 10 years ago. After many Expos, I understand that’s the way this industry is: welcoming.
Sure, in the International Pizza Challenge, or our own Chef of the Year competitions in Toronto and Vancouver, you can be a competitive bunch: serious about the competition process and introducing your best possible pizza to the world with no detail too small to perfect. Serious about making a good living, taking care of family and being well thought of in your community. But competitive with other pizzerias – not so much.
It’s more like one big family. I saw this in action while watching Canadian Chef of the Year Carlo Raillo bake his fabulous “Hangover” breakfast pizza during the competition. With his chef whites and natty red scarf, Raillo was a joy to behold. As I approached the oven to take a photo, I noticed runner-up Steve Silvestro by Raillo’s side assisting him and having a great time doing it (you are allowed an assistant). What an example of camaraderie! I’ve since seen many examples of friendliness among chefs and operators. They all wish each other well.
This is the magic of Expo. It is a very special pizza community that is hard to capture in words.
Back to my first Expo. I remember the throngs of attendees waiting at the show entrance, just itching to get inside to see what’s new. I remember the sounds of traditional Italian guitar music which I traced to the hopping Stanislaus booth set up like a restaurant patio and where I found operators catching up with old friends and making new ones. I remember finding my first new product (Sweety Drop peppers at the Atalanta Corporation booth).
I remember meeting and talking shop with many smiling Canadians at our booth. Walking the show floor on miles of red carpet.
Thanks to a great partnership with the Expo organizers and Pizza Today, we experience every aspect of this important show. We exhibit our magazines and brand on the show floor, we visit other exhibitors sampling and looking for interesting new products and equipment. We cover the competitions, cheering on our Chef of the Year winners (competing as part of their prize).
We watch demonstrations by exceptionally talented pizz chefs and learn about regional styles (there is always a new style popping up). We are inspired by keynote speakers in the early mornings. We go back to school to learn about marketing techniques, how to train your staff, how to open a second location, dough troubleshooting (who can forget the wonderful Tom Lehmann, The Dough Doctor) and much more.
Every year we are overwhelmed, in a good way, by good people, good products and equipment, good ideas and good pizza. Make that great pizza. It’s some of the best in the world and certainly some of the most creative and cutting-edge. We look back on each show with a sense of what’s working for pizzerias, how they are getting creative their pizzas and what they are excited about.
If you can get to Expo – possibly by combining it with a vacation – it is well worth the effort. You will walk away with ideas, inspiration and potentially lifelong friends – just ask Joe Leroux of Amadio’s Pizza in Port Credit, Ont., who credits the show with helping him make important connections. This year’s Expo takes place March 19-21 and we hope to see you there.
This year the International Pizza Expo marks 40 years of helping the pizza industry learn, shop, make connections and celebrate all things pizza. Happy 40th, Expo! Here’s to 40 more!
Print this page