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Friday, May 21, 2010

Long Day At The Office

Normally when you tell someone that you worked from 8:30am til 9:30pm you are venting about how awful your day was.  This is NOT the case for me, as I recently had the pleasure of being a guest at the Travel Channel's Food Wars hosted by Camille Ford.  Cammy (as everyone called her on the set) was personable, and incredibly talented as I saw first hand how it cannot be easy to delivery your lines amidst an angry mob of foodies (wait til you see the scene on the double decker bus).

What was the food war you ask???  Deep dish pizza - what else!?!?!  Of course there was already an Italian Beef Food War in Chicago with Al's losing in a close battle to Mr. Beef, but this is a pizza blog, and in Chicago pizza is KING!  So deep dish pizza, who do they ask to represent, Pizzeria Uno -1st pic (I mean it is called Uno, right?) and Lou Malnati's - 2nd pic.

If you think I am going to tell you who won as a spoiler alert, guess again.  WATCH THE EPISODE!  

This post is going to be about my experience as this was one of my favorite pizza days ever!

8:30 AM - Work on Amex rewards program for card holders looking to take pizza tour
9:30 AM - Conversing with Zerve our ticketing company to implement 2 or 3 ticket deals for summer
10:15 AM - Facebooking and Tweeting to my Pizza Fans and Pizza Tweeps out in cyber
11:30 AM - Lunch in Elmhurst at a local pizza dive (more on them in another post)
1:00 PM - Pick up Chicago Pizza Tours promo items and gear up for the 4:00 PM shoot
3:30 PM - Check in with the wife and remind her that she is going to have to pick up the boy after work
4:00 PM - Brother and I are among the first ones to arrive at English and proceed to talk pizza with none other than Marc Malnati!!!!!!!!

Sidenote:  When I started Chicago Pizza Tours one of my goals was to meet Marc Malnati because he seems like the nicest guy on TV in all the pizza specials he has starred in and he is what I consider a pizza legend.


Honestly he was so outgoing and humble, it was such an opportunity for me to talk pizza with the legend!  Not to be outdone, was a picture with his brother Rick who I have spotted in plenty of Lou's YouTube videos

Another great guy who thought my sign was outstanding.  I love me some Pizzeria Uno as well, but when a Food War has been thrown down, you have to pick a side for the day!

4:30 PM - standing in the alley smelling all the pizzas from being cooked by Lou's and Uno's and that is the best that alley will ever smell.  EVER!
5:00 PM - After filming the walk down the alley segment and the double decker bus segment, it is time to head back into English and get the judging part taped
5:02 PM - Snag a quick pick with none other than Marc and Rick's mom, MRS. MALNATI!!!  Jean Jean Jean (how the cheers went)

5:15 - Race upstairs, get to your spot and chant for your team for Food Wars
6:00 - Realize that a sign you have been holding up correctly for 97% of the day, was upside down for about 1 minute during the filming (it is almost certain that it will be shown upside down when the show premiers)
7:30 - The judges have made a decision and it is time to announce a winner
7:45 - A celebration on both sides (in the end everyone wins as both are outstanding pizzas)
8:00 - I have the opportunity to eat a slice of each, much like the judges did

8:30 - Pizza talk and celebration leaves English and heads on over to the closest Lou Malnati's (1/3 of a block away) with members of both Uno's and Malnati's leading the charge for the celebration of pizza.

Did I mention that Marc announced to the crowd that Adult Beverages were on him?
They were, and not wanting to take too much of advantage of a dynamite offer like that, I went for a couple.  Such a great opportunity for me to discuss with both Lou's and Uno's the business of pizza in Chicago.   They both are masters of their trade and I have nothing but positive things to say about each.

*Another sidenote, I was at a wedding in November in the Quad Cities and April the star from Uno's was there as well and was introduced to my wife through mutual friends and I wasn't around... was I on the dance floor?  That happens.

So finally to wrap up the night I said my good byes and wished everyone the best, hopefully we will be in talks for more pizza promoting here soon!  Here is my final pic for evening at Lou Malnati's afterwards with both stars and their bosses (Marc's boss would be his wife).  I should mention that these are some of the nicest people you could ever come across, they are truly happy and it is contagious.

9:15 - my departure and racing home to tell my wife (who is really the brains behind our pizza tour) to tell her how amazing the whole experience was.

Normally when someone works that late into the evening they would be venting about how tired they are and how long their day went, but to me I was on cloud 9 (where the heck does that expression come from anyways, maybe wiki can answer.

An experience like that is just a great reminder to get up this morning and get to work on my pizza stuff because when you truly love doing your job, you never really notice when your work day begins or ends.

-Jonathan Porter

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Chain, Chain, Chain...

Here in Chicago, we have over 2000 pizzerias and not of the major chain variety.  Don't get me wrong, there are chain pizza restaurants here too, they just aren't the majority.  In case you don't follow hockey, the Chicago Blackhawks are in the Stanley Cup playoffs and Pizza Hut sponsors some of the highlights during the breaks and it got me thinking about chains.  I'm not a pizza snob, I'll eat 'em all. Even though there are so many great independent pizzerias in Chicago doesn't mean I don't want a little Papa John's every now and then.  Gasp!  Papa John's?!  Yes, I went to college in a typical small midwestern town where Papa John's was king and it will always have a special place in my heart.  I could drink the garlic sauce still today.  So, let's see, we got Pizza Hut, Papa John's and let's not forget Domino's and Little Caesars.  Little Caesars!  Pizza Pizza!  Those are so hard to find around here!  I have a friend who will drive to the ends of the earth for crazy bread and I understand it.  Now, Domino's claims to have changed their recipe and made their pizza much better, but I haven't tried since and am not so sure I believe the hype and I may have to bite the bullet and check it out.  Anyone I'm missing?  I think the average person not living in Chicago, or even Illinois for that matter calls one of these four whenever deciding to eat pizza.  I wonder which one gets the most action - I think I've just given myself a homework assignment.  So which chain do you prefer if you go the chain route folks?  Papa John's Dominos', Little Caesars, or Pizza Hut?

Oh and if any of those non IL/non Chicago living folks come to town, I know a great way they can taste a lot of Chicago pizza!