It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Every year in March the International Pizza Expo is held in Las Vegas and it is a mind blowing trip! This convention is a must if we are going to work at being the best Chicago tour. In order to understand our own pizza, we have to visit the suppliers, the oven makers, the cheese purveyors that make up the ingredients used to assemble the Chicago pies and find out as many details as we can.
“I went years ago when I first started the company, and now I just go every year. So much to learn, so many friends to reconnect with, it’s honestly one of my favorite experiences all year” – Jon
When we tell guests of the tour about the Expo it usually garners the same reaction, “There’s a pizza expo?! Can anyone go?!”. Yes and Yes! Here is the nuts and bolts of what you can expect at the Expo.
- Demos – Champion pizza makers from all over the world will set up and give demonstrations, everything from Roman style, Detroit Style, Traditional, Neapolitan, to even cheese making, craft beer pairing, tomato sauce tasting… you name it, they are going to demo it. Some of the people leading the demos this year were Tony Gemignani, Jeff Smokevitch, Laura Meyer, and Chicago’s very own Leo Spizzirri.
- Keynote speeches – I know, I know, it’s Las Vegas at 8:30am in the convention center. Who is going to be there? EVERYONE! Packed house and we all can’t wait to hear what the keynote speaker is going to say. This year it was Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix. It was a pretty rad speech not just about pizza making, but really more about life in general.
- Games – What is a pizza show without enjoying some of the games. Whether it is acrobatic dough spinning, speed pizza making, or even the largest stretch (personal fav of mine and shout out to Neil from Pizza School)
- Samples Samples Samples – Some of the best booths to visit would be King Arthur Flour where they hire some of the best pizza makers in the country to constantly churn out pies and talk to you about ratios of flour and hydration. Breville had a nice section where they had world class pizza makers cooking on their home oven. Orlando Food Sales has a boss Neapolitan set up if you need your fix, and was super fortunate to end up at the Galbani booth when John Arena, Chris Decker, and Jamie Culliton were all there!
- Booths – No show is complete without going through the Stanislaus Tomato booth which is really set up as a thank you to their current customers as opposed to a sales booth to convince people to try their products. The Corto olive oil is great, and I had plenty of that as well, a nice spice in your throat which lets you know how alive and fresh it is. Conveniently a few steps away is one of my favorite cheese companies Grande.
- Classes – There are rooms booked outside of the show floor where people are going over everything from Gluten Free to how you should be using social media. There are also awards for entrepreneur of the year and the famous dough doctor.
- Parties – Yes it is Vegas but you don’t need to get to the strip to whoop it up. Expo does a pretty awesome job of keeping things rocking at the convention center into the evening. Beer & Bull(shit) goes on Tuesday night and that is always a good time for everyone to unwind and catch up, and then the closing ceremonies on Wednesday evening is pretty rocking. This year Nino Coniglio stole the spotlight when he proposed to Sheaylan Brand on stage.
- Going out with friends – We’ve got a pretty good group that just keeps coming back to Expo every year and after the show is all done, it’s nice to go unwind, usually at a Tiki Bar somewhere.
2019 Expo was a blast, it was great doing all of that stuff listed above. I’ve been in small business for now 20 years and one thing I know is true is you have to surround yourself with people you respect. Good friend Scott from Scott’s Pizza Tours has knowledge, work ethic, and energy I strive for. It’s inspiring to be around, and that goes for all the others in my inner pizza posse. Mike, Brianne, and Chris from Fine Folk Pizza, Jonathan Cowan from Wooden Paddle, Felicia my pizza blogger from Bermuda and her husband John, Kendall Bruns from the US Pizza Museum, Peter Regas who blew the lid off of who brought pizza to America in his soon to be released book, and friend Marius Niva from Norway, the list goes on. See you all next year!
Side note: Marius and I are planning on flying to LA and driving in next year… Road Trip!
Another side note: I gained 1.2 pounds during the trip, next year I’ll do better!
Enjoy the pics below