In the Kitchen
Pizza on fire: Prepping for Pizza Expo
By Tom Stankiewicz
By Tom Stankiewicz
The new year is underway and that means the International Pizza Expo is just around the corner.
The new year is underway and that means the International Pizza Expo is just around the corner. I think it’s safe to say there is no other event quite like Pizza Expo, scheduled to hit Las Vegas in March. One of the biggest pizza competitions in the world is held during the show, where chefs from all over the world compete for the most prestigious prize – the title of “best pizza in the world.” However, this event is much more than a pizza competition. The three-day show gives you access to various workshops, allows you to watch demos and get tips from top pizza chefs, and lets you buy and sell pizza-related products. It’s a place where you can establish new business connections, learn from others, and share your own ideas.
If you decide to attend and compete at the expo, careful planning is advised to make sure your trip is a success rather than a disappointment. For first-time attendees, the experience can be a bit overwhelming simply because you’re surrounded by so much that’s unfamiliar to you. If you’ve never been to Las Vegas, you will quickly come to understand why it’s called the world capital of entertainment. Many people who arrive for the pizza competition may find the city a bit distracting at first and have difficulty concentrating on the competition itself.
When you arrive in Las Vegas for the first time, a simple task such as buying pizza ingredients presents a challenge. If you haven’t done your research ahead of the trip, you will find yourself wasting valuable time locating the nearest grocery store. If you require special ingredients, you may not be able to buy them easily.
This is where planning ahead becomes your biggest advantage. It costs nothing to research on the Internet and get familiar with the area where you’re staying. You might even call ahead to a particular store and verify that they sell what you need. Some stores may even be willing to set things aside for you to pick up on an agreed upon day. In my experience, simple toppings such as peppers or tomatoes can be purchased at a local store. When you cross the border, you will not be allowed to bring fresh vegetables with you. You will only be able to bring your pizza spices with you; everything else will have to be bought locally. What you want to avoid at all costs is missing out on pizza toppings needed to complete the recipe you’ve entered in the competition.
Another problem you will have to solve is how to keep your pizza ingredients cold. It’s definitely not a problem when you are at your pizza store, as you have refrigerators and walk-in coolers. In Las Vegas, you will be staying at a hotel that doesn’t offer such equipment. One solution is simply to buy an ice cooler in Vegas and load it with lots of ice to keep the temperature low. However, it wouldn’t hurt to check if some hotels in the area have refrigerators available. This would definitely be the more convenient option.
Even if you’re not participating in the pizza competition, you should give some serious thought to attending the show. It’s particularly important if you’ve been thinking about making some changes or enhancements to your existing pizza business. The show will give you access to tons of businesses that specialize in everything related to pizza making. It’s basically, a one-stop shop to view the latest equipment and gadgets. It gives you a perfect opportunity to look at the newest inventions and compare them to one another. This is definitely a time and money saver for you, as you don’t have to visit 20 places to pick out one new piece of equipment
Many of the workshops and seminars offered during the expo are becoming main attractions for visitors. Once again, for three days you are given access to top pizza chefs and industry experts. They will share with you how you can improve your pizza making. You will be surprised by how many different ways you can make pizza dough. You can even learn what other pizza makers put in their dough to make it more delicious. If you’re looking for ways to ensure your pizzas come out perfect from your ovens, there are plenty of cooking demonstrations to see.
If you do attend this year’s Pizza Expo, be prepared for a great experience. You will come back with tons of new information to improve your business. I know many pizzaiolos who go back year after year because there is no other event like this anywhere. Everyone always comes home with new ideas that can be easily implemented to make their businesses more successful.
Tom Stankiewicz has been in the pizza business for more than 15 years. He has been the proprietor of Bondi’s Pizza in London, Ont., since 2000 and is president of the Canadian Pizza Team.