Each year, the International Pizza Expo takes place in Las Vegas, Nevada. This year a local from Rexburg won second place in the non-traditional division.
“It’s the industry’s largest tradeshow,” said Bill Crawford, the owner of Righteous Slice and maker of the winning pizza.
Crawford said the expo has workshops, competitions and more so people can learn and improve their businesses.
Crawford lived and worked in Tucson, Arizona when he first started making pizza’s in his backyard. He wanted to get better at it and had a friend in the industry. That friend told him about this international expo. In 2012 Crawford went to Vegas for one day and visited the expo.
“That’s when I really felt just this kinship to people who pour their hearts into something I was passionate about,” Crawford said.
Now, Crawford works for BYU-Idaho and teaches business. He explained that he was hesitant to open a pizza business because of the financial risk and potential stress on his family. So they settled for making pizza at the local farmer’s market. Crawford’s pizza was met with such enthusiasm that the topic of opening an official restaurant came up again and again.
This time Crawford’s family told him if he didn’t do it he would regret it in the future.
Now, it’s rare to go down to the restaurant and not find a member of his family there. Crawford said the restaurant is like their family farm.
Righteous Slice has been open for six months now and so Crawford felt like they were legitimate enough to enter the expo in Vegas.
He said he wanted to test their skills and see how they stacked up compared to people who have been doing this their whole lives.
In the non-traditional division you simply have to make something that resembles a pizza. Crawford said there were some pretty crazy pizzas from Cuban-style to ones with pickles.
Once your number is called you have 30 minutes to have two pizzas made and delivered to the judges. Crawford’s pizzas cook in just two minutes. Despite the excess of time, Crawford said there were struggles.
He made the dough the day before but messed it up. Along with that he said they had a hard time finding the ingredients he needed in Vegas. The day of the competition he was trying to find a lemon slicer. One thing after another seemed to get in the way.
“For every little thing we were scrambling behind the scenes to put it all together,” Crawford said.
Yet, despite the rush he was told he looked relaxed and like he was having fun.
“It doesn’t matter if you win as long as you’re giving your best,” Crawford affirmed.
The pizza he decided to make was one he had tried out at a house party a few weeks before. It had been a big hit so he tried selling it at Righteous Slice. People couldn’t get enough of the pizza and they sold out of it.
The pizza has a cream and butter sauce with shrimp, scallops, a little bit of thyme, and lemon squeezed over the top.
Crawford says the key with cooking with seafood is not to overcook it to the point that it becomes rubbery.
“It just worked,” Crawford said. “It was just kind of a last minutes thing.”
Righteous Slice is still selling the winning pizza but only on Saturdays. They go fast so you better be quick!
Crawford said he enjoys making pizza so much because he likes figuring out how to pair things and keep the flavors balanced.
“There’s a learning and a science and an art that make it so that it’s a constant challenge which is what I tend to seek in my life,” Crawford said.
Crawford hopes to enter the competition again next year but this time he wants to go to Italy in the spring for the other international pizza competition.