Pizza Expo Podcast Episode 6- Lee Hunzinger
[00:00:00.000] - Rev and Eric
We are back with another exciting episode, in the Marquii booth, of "Who's at Pizza Expo".
[00:00:05.640] - Rev and Eric
We went for a very obvious name here.
[00:00:07.710] - Rev and Eric
Yeah. We are with Chef Lee Hunzinger. Cane Rosso and what's the...Zoli's?
[00:00:12.510] - Lee
[00:00:14.010] - Rev and Eric
[00:00:14.530] - Lee
Yeah, New York style. And Thunderbird Pie's. Coming soon, about two weeks.
[00:00:19.690] - Rev and Eric
Literally, the first question I wanted to ask you, was to talk to you about Thunderbird Pies. So you guys, COVID hits. You don't have to look down there, you can look at us. I'm kidding, I'm kidding.
[00:00:26.910] - Lee
Okay, yeah, no you know I was just seeing how it works.
[00:00:29.070] - Rev and Eric
Covid hits and you guys adapt pretty quick because the restaurants are shut down, right? And you guys go to Thunderbird Pies, which was your, this is our delivery, carry out ghost kitchen and gorgeous pizza.
[00:00:41.860] - Lee
We ordered a couple of pans to R&D and as soon as we got them and we started playing around. We were ordering pans just to start the deal because the pizza. I knew what I wanted to do and what Jay Jerrier kind of wanted and we had it dialed in pretty quickly and launched it within probably a month after we started doing that.
[00:00:59.940] - Rev and Eric
So, that was going to be my question. How quick does that process happen? Within a month, Thunderbird Pies is up and running. Dallas, Texas is going crazy over it. "You got to get a Thunderbird Pie". They look...
[00:01:13.030] - Rev and Eric
So, it's a virtual branch, right? Like, there's no brick and mortar?
[00:01:16.200] - Lee
Uh, well, it's was actually executed out of Zoli's. So we had a separate menu, different, new boxes we ordered. A simple menu with about ten pizzas on it. And we just sold 60 a day in the beginning. And we were selling out in like 25 mins.
[00:01:29.740] - Rev and Eric
Yeah, selling out like that.
[00:01:31.470] - Lee
We we're still making pies obviously for the next hour but within 25 minutes, we were selling them through either online or through a third party service like that in the middle of the day, as to not interrupt the dinner service, too. We didn't know what to expect but a big response.
[00:01:51.420] - Rev and Eric
It blew up!
[00:01:52.080] - Lee
They loved it. Yeah, so quickly Jay was searching for....
[00:01:53.930] - Rev and Eric
And, well totally different from Cane Rosso, from the Neapolitan style and Zoli's is New York style. How did you, did you already understand the Detroit style that you're doing or was it...how did that happen?
[00:02:06.130] - Lee
I did. Well, I did a little research into it, I wanted, just with anything, give respect to Detroit and that style of pizza. And I wanted to do it the right way, you know and Jay and Chef Jeff Bekavac, they're firm believers of the same, we do want to put a quality ingredient, we didn't want to just put something together. We ordered the proper pans and the right cheese, wherever we got a nice cheese blend and the pies are great, in a humble way. I enjoy eating them, it actually is an ancestor, a derivative of, it started as the Sicilian pizza, the original recipe came from Buddies.
[00:02:47.480] - Rev and Eric
[00:02:47.480] - Lee
[00:02:48.840] - Rev and Eric
Native Detroiter here. I grew up eating it.
[00:02:51.580] - Lee
Okay, yeah and the dough recipe was Connie's grandmother's, Sicilian grandmother recipe, it was Buddy's wife. So when I heard that it, I said okay, you know, I knew my dough recipe wanted to do something like...it's a Sicilian dough. It's not as thick per se as our Sicilian but uh yeah that's how it happened.
[00:03:10.310] - Rev and Eric
You get announced as a world Pizza Champion just as kind of Covid Hits and things shut down, had been kind of a let down, you and Melissa Rickman at the same time? So is it cool to be here, like, a year later wearing this and like part of the team, is it cool?
[00:03:26.630] - Lee
Surreal feeling, you know COVID happened and although I know a lot of the guys on the a team, I haven't got to hang out with these guy and get to know them and I'm huge fans. Part of my deal before people know who I am or I've met you, it's like I was following all these guys and they were idols of mine. They still are. Industry leaders, people that are leading by example. And seriously, just something I really was a goal of mine, you know, how do I get on that team? Just a tremendous honor. Really, really is. Even though covid hit I was just, I'm just so grateful that I'm on the team and I figured my time will come whenever.
[00:04:07.710] - Rev and Eric
Well, it gets announced, and then I'm like, I know that guy. We're friends on Facebook and we started messaging back and forth. It's weird sometimes to say this, like, grown ass man to grown ass man but like, I was proud of you and like we've never even met each other until yesterday, I'm like, I'm so proud of that guy. It's a cool feeling because I think people talk about the pizza community, and you know Mike Bausch said, one of the cool things about us at Perfect Crust is that we sell from within the community.
[00:04:34.060] - Rev and Eric
We don't sell to the industry. And I took that as a huge compliment because you guys are our friends man, I'm proud of you and I'm excited for you. I see some of these guys winning and competing and winning it first and second and 3rd place. That's my boy. That's stuffs cool. I love it. So I'm excited for you, I'm excited to have dinner with you tonight.
[00:04:53.080] - Rev and Eric
So what you're saying is you want to be elected to the cheerleader division of the World Pizza Championship?
[00:05:01.650] - Rev and Eric
Well, I, I've made, I made my own t-shirt. Honorary World Pizza Champion. I interviewed Tony Gemignani and I said, hey, by the way, check out my shirt. Honorary World Pizza Champion. He's like, "that ain't real". I'm like, "no, it's not real, but still". So what's next for you guys? You're going to open a brick and mortar Thunderbird Pies.
[00:05:16.090] - Lee
Thunderbird Pies is on the horizon. You know, with the challenges that are facing the pizza industry or just any restaurant industry in general. This will be a tough opening for us, you know but we're ready for it.
[00:05:29.940] - Rev and Eric
Are there any restrictions in Dallas right now?
[00:05:32.590] - Lee
It's just the masks came back and it's daily we wait and see how this thing is going to play out, you know and try and be able to pivot however it goes. But we're...
[00:05:44.281] - Rev and Eric
When does it open?
[00:05:44.290] - Lee
Hopefully in a couple of weeks. Basically, when I get home from here is when we're going to start treating people. Next Monday. And hopefully get people up to speed, I mean, possibly open the weekend coming up.
[00:05:58.270] - Rev and Eric
[00:05:58.570] - Lee
I plan on being there every day and that's what I do when it's a new restaurant.
[00:06:00.830] - Rev and Eric
Was this an existing Cane Rosso location or anything or?
[00:06:08.011] - Lee
So it wasn't, it's actually directly next door to Cane Rosso. I mean, the next door, it's the same building, which is really cool. We're excited for that too. And you know some people are like, "oh, you're going to put a pizzeria next to a pizzeria" and the only thing that's similar is that they're both called pizza. They're completely different. It's almost like our Zoli's, it's different flour, sauce, cheese. The oven. Everything is different. We're excited to have them so close together. It's a great location near downtown, called White Rock Lake, so we have a lot of traffic in Cane Rosso where it is and we're looking forward to it.
[00:06:40.630] - Rev and Eric
That's cool. How are you marketing this virtual brand? Like, how did you get the word out?
[00:06:47.190] - Lee
Through social media. So we have a pretty strong social media presence in DFW. Jeff Amador, our chief marketing officer, is also our social media maven. I learned that word from him and it's an inside joke. If he ever sees, if he sees this video, he said it one day and I said, "I like that word". Be he is just, he is a man of few words, but you put him behind that keyboard and he's quick, he's witty, his jokes are great. So I mean, that's our deal, we don't pay for advertising. The company never did, never will, strong social media presence and so a lot of that was done through social media.
[00:07:25.730] - Rev and Eric
I'm friends with Jay on Facebook. I've never met him. But one of the things that's funny to me from a social media standpoint, there was this guy, Tim, who did a bad review and they blew up Tim, and they made freaking Tim, "Don't be a Tim" T-shirts or whatever, right? Some of that you almost like you kind of of cringe a little bit. The worst thing, literally the worst, you pissed off Tim because he wrote a bad review. You guys blow him up and call him out and Tim goes freaking postal and shows up at your restaurant. There's got to be some, a little concern about that, right?
[00:08:02.470] - Lee
Well, I mean the bad reviews come, they come, we expect, I hate to say it but it's like 2021 and somebody can have a...
[00:08:02.590] - Rev and Eric
But every dinner, every meal is not five star every time.
[00:08:07.980] - Lee
No. I find it strange that in this day and age, people are actually going to take time to say something negative. I always think of my mom as like "If you have nothing nice to say, don't say it". You know?
[00:08:18.070] - Rev and Eric
[00:08:19.110] - Lee
To actually go and to post something negative. You know? Not going back would probably be, you know, if I don't have a good meal somewhere, I don't, I would never think of doing something like that. Anyway, to each their own. Tim went a little overboard, to say the least.
[00:08:35.140] - Rev and Eric
He did he did. You've got to go back and look at it because it's crazy but it got them a lot of run, a lot of love. It was crazy.
[00:08:42.820] - Lee
He kind of turned it into and immediately...
[00:08:47.010] - Rev and Eric
Hold up. What happened in the relationship with Tim to the restaurant? Where did that end up? Like is Tim, did you win him back? Or does he hate you for life?
[00:08:54.130] - Lee
That's to be continued. I don't know exactly how Tim is doing right now or if he plans on actually coming in...
[00:09:05.020] - Rev and Eric
Tim is the new Herb, if you remember Herb from...
[00:09:05.221] - Rev and Eric
Yeah, could be, could be.
[00:09:09.380] - Rev and Eric
I think, bad reviews, to me, it's a chance to win back somebody. I look at it as like, "okay, what can we do to make this better."
[00:09:16.050] - Lee
[00:09:16.720] - Rev and Eric
Well, we don't want to take a bunch of your time...
[00:09:19.680] - Lee
No, I was saying like initially, we were trying to do that, and he kept.
[00:09:23.340] - Rev and Eric
He just kept jabbing back and jabbing back.
[00:09:26.080] - Rev and Eric
Oh you want the Rev rule? Don't reply more than twice. If it's more than, if they keep going, keep going after twice, they are doing it just to troll.
[00:09:31.510] - Rev and Eric
Or blow up your social media, I guess.
[00:09:35.250] - Rev and Eric
Yeah, well, it worked for them. Worked for them. We don't want to take a bunch of your time. Thank you for being a Perfect Crust customer. Thank you. Nice to meet you. Have fun and we'll see you tonight at dinner.
[00:09:44.900] - Lee
Yes, can't wait, can't wait.
[00:09:46.270] - Rev and Eric
Thank you, brother.