Wild West Pizza
Named Best in the Northwest at Expo

Wild West Pizzeria picked up a major award earlier this month as their pepperoni and sausage pizza was named the best in Northwest in the International Pizza Competition in Las Vegas.The competition, which is part of the National Association of Pizzeria Operators’ International Pizza Expo, puts pizzas from around the world up against each other in a competition the judges each entry based on overall taste, sauce, cheese, toppings, bake and visual presentation. The Expo is held in Las Vegas each spring and boasts more than 12,000 visitors per year, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.Wild West’s entry finished just 0.3 points out of the top four pizzas in the traditional contest, which would have qualified them for the finals and a chance at $7,500. Along with the Traditional division, the competition also had divisions for non-traditional pizza, pizza Napolitano and gluten-free.

“To have something of mine recognized as one of the best out there is amazing,” Wild West founder and owner Aaron Hecht said. “I’ve loved cooking since I was a little kid. I learned most of my cooking skills from my mom and I just have always loved it.”

Wild West was just one of 70 entrants in the Traditional division with entries from around the world, including Italy, Canada, Japan, Korea and many others. Pizzas in the Traditional division had to be made with no more than two toppings on each cook’s own dough with their own cheeses and spices. Only pepperoni, sausage, bacon, ham, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, onions or olives could be used.

Cooks had 10 minutes for preparation and 20 minutes to cook their pizzas (one for the judges and one for the audience).

Hecht said that his employees brought their dough with them from West Yellowstone, giving it time to develop the flavor he wanted, but that he was not completely confident when the pizzas came out of the oven.

“I did not feel as good as I wanted to when the pizza came out of the oven. I felt like the pizza that comes out of our oven in West was slightly better than the one at the competition,” he said. “They had their ovens set up completely different from what we use and that means the pizza can be drastically different.”

Despite Hecht’s reservations, the judges loved the Wild West entry, naming it the best in the Northwest, including Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Utah and Colorado. The award came with $500 and a chef’s coat.

Hecht, who opened Wild West Pizzeria in 1999, says that it is the time and attention to detail and quality that make his pizzas so good.

“I think it’s the time that we put into making sure everything is just right on all of our pizzas. We do it all from scratch, from using our own fresh dough to shredding the cheese off the block. It’s all of the extra steps that we take to put out the best product possible. That’s why my pizza is better than the rest,” he said. “Not many people want to do that. You can cut corners and make more money. The majority of other pizza places in the world are more profitable than me because I am taking the time to make pizzas the right way.”

According to Hecht, his pizza recipe was a hit from day one.

“When I first opened Wild West, I started taking photos of people who said it was the best pizza they had ever eaten and I would put them on the wall. Before long, I had a couple of walls full of photos,” he said.

Hecht said that a lot of the credit for his success goes to his General Manager, Vince Lovato, as well as his Kitchen Manager, Miguel Vazquez, and his staff and crew.

“A lot of credit also goes to my staff and crew,” he said. “They are by far the best group I have seen working together in my long time doing this.”


Article Credit: West Yellowstone NEWS

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