I Made a Pizza With John. Like, Papa John.

I promise this post gets a teeny bit more exciting than the horrid wrist shadow across my pizza.

Papa John's Trip / Bev Cooks

Check it out, though! I made that AT the Papa John’s headquarters. IN the test kitchen. WITH the Papa John. Pretty rad, eh?

So, last week I flew to Louisville, Kentucky to meet a handful of other bloggers and pizza enthusiasts (you maaay know this dude?) for a little behind-the-scenes look at how Papa Johns actually runs. And of course Papa was there himself. I didn’t call him Papa though. That’s gross.

Anyway, I’m obsessed with anything behind-the-scenes, and obviously pizza, so this was clearly a DUH situation for me. Wanna take a gander?

Papa John's Trip / Bev Cooks

Also, this is soooo not a sponsored post. The dudes at Papa John’s have zero idea that I’m writing about this. I just think the entire thing is so fascinating, like ALL THIS DOUGH you’re about to see. It’s so much dough! I love dough.

This is the main entrance. The funny thing is that the entryway to my house looks the exact same! Right down to the huge banner of my face.

Papa John's Trip / Bev Cooks

The story goes, John Schnatter sold his prized possession Camaro back in 1984 to buy $1,600 dollars of used restaurant equipment so he could start his own pizza biz in the back of (I believe his uncle’s?) restaurant/bar. He knocked out a tiny broom closet overnight and surprised his uncle the next morning! He was then fired.

Just kidding he wasn’t fired.

I’m so curious to know how his business turned out!

Papa John's Trip / Bev Cooks

His original awning from the veeery early days. I just LOVE historical sites and relics. You know, like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Leaning Awning of Pizza.

Papa John's Trip / Bev Cooks


Okay will you just look at this dough? At this point in the tour I kept singing, “Give us any chance we’ll take it. Give us any rule we’ll break it. We’re gonna make our dreams come truuuue, DOING IT OUR WAY.” And everyone basically wanted to throw me into that enormous dough squisher thingy.

Papa John's Trip / Bev Cooks

“Nothing’s gonna turn us back now. Straight ahead and on the track now. We’re gonna make our dreams come truuuuue, DOING IT OUR WAY.”

Anybody? Anybody? Don’t leave me hanging here.

Also, they use extra-virgin olive oil in their dough. I liked that.

Papa John's Trip / Bev Cooks

Look at all of those ingredients! When no one was looking I yoinked a pepperoni.

Just kidding, Papa! Don’t sue me.

Sorry for calling you Papa just now.

Papa John's Trip / Bev Cooks

So this is interesting. We learned a lot about how they test the dough and the sauce to make sure everything’s at the right salt vs. sugar vs. acidity levels. Like, I’m talking an entire science lab with beakers and ish. Get this, when they make the pizza sauce, the tomatoes are off the vine and in the cans in less than six hours! I was impressed with that.

Of course we got to taste their sauce against a commercial version. Things were going swimmingly until I face planted an entire can and had to be rescued and given CPR.

Papa John's Trip / Bev Cooks

This is PJ (I call him PJ now) telling us all about the sauce process. Do you think he looks like he does in the commercials? I was surprised at how dark his hair was! I kept wanting to touch it. I feel like there’s probably a lot of gel in it. He’s like Superman meets West Side Story. Minus the cape, the singing and wanting to cut you with knives part.

Papa John's Trip / Bev Cooks

This is a really friendly bearded dude telling us about all their boxes. Check this, they use white on white (outside and inside) because there was something in brown boxes that was making people sick a long time ago. And it’s something like an extra 10 million a year to use white on white, but they didn’t want to cut the corners on safety, so they do it!

I liked that.

“There is nothing we won’t try. Never heard the word IMPOSSIBLE. This tiiiiime, there’s nooo stopping uuuuuuus.”

Still no one?

Papa John's Trip / Bev Cooks

Thooooose would be garlic knots. And they’re not on the menu. And they rocked my face off.

We also got to try their version of a Greek pizza. I think I remember them saying it’s re-released today? I think? Pesto sauce with some Greek-ish toppings. It was pretty dern tasty!

And obviously, #garlicbutterfordays.

Papa John's Trip / Bev Cooks

Then we made pizza in their test kitchen. The veeeeery room where they tinker and experiment with new flavor combos. Here’s Peej (I call him Peej now) showing us how to make a perfect dough circle. If you’ve seen any of my pizza posts on this here website URL, you know I’m in desperate need of this lesson. Lord have mercy.

Papa John's Trip / Bev Cooks

It was also cool to see how involved PeeJee is (I call him PeeJee now) in everything. He has his hands in every single part of the company, knows everyone at the headquarters, and carries a high-energy, positive vibe. Here he is fixing the oven. Not a maintenance dude. But PeeJee.

I think he was cussing at me right then. Just kidding.

I also found it cool that to see that there were two gyms, a few running trails, a yoga studio, a vegan/vegetarian salad bar, an in-house doctor and coffee shop, right there on the premises. Half of the building looked like Las Vegas and the other half looked like Harry Potter was filmed there. Super castle-y and corridor-y, with clouds painted on the ceilings.

I was scared.

But not hungry! This is important.

Papa John's Trip / Bev Cooks

This is me and the Peejster (I call him Peejster now) with my pizza! Little bit of mushrooms, a few pepperonis, a sprinkling of Canadian Bacon and pepperoncinis. Aaaand I had the perfect opportunity to touch his hair and I MISSED IT.

“On your mark, get set and go now. Gotta dream and weeee just know now. We’re gonna make our dreams come trueeeee. And we’ll do it OUR WAY, yes OUR WAY. Make all our dreams come true and we’ll do it OUR WAY, yes OUR WAY. Make all our dreaaaaaams come truuuuue. For me and youuuuuu.”

Still no one? Seriously?

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18 Responses to I Made a Pizza With John. Like, Papa John.

  1. Amy @Very Culinary May 26, 2015 at 7:44 am #
    How fun!! My second job in high school was working for a pizza place and I learned how to flip dough. I could take him. Well, probably not. But I can eat an entire PJ's pizza with no shame.
  2. Darcy May 26, 2015 at 9:04 am #
    How cool! I remember being in high school, and going to the National FFA convention in Louisville, and Papa John's was (still is, I believe) a HUGE sponsor....great to hear that the owner is super cool! :)
  3. Heather @ Sugar Dish Me May 26, 2015 at 9:09 am #
    Um... this is seriously the coolest thing ever. I am also in desperate need of the circle pizza dough lesson. Are they putting your pizza on the menu? I think they should.
  4. Melissa May 26, 2015 at 9:41 am #
    Pizzashmeeze....the hair!! I would have been shown the extensive grounds ie thrown out because I would have kept wanting to touch his hair!
  5. Hope May 26, 2015 at 10:09 am #
    Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated! :) Looks like fun. Thanks for sharing!
  6. Lindsey Morningstar May 26, 2015 at 10:27 am #
    Please tell me you now text the Peejster back and forth with "cheesy" pizza jokes, and you talk about hair products, old cars, and classic rock. Please tell me that's your life now!
  7. Aixa May 26, 2015 at 10:50 am #
    Hah! Your post had me laughing out loud in the office. And what an awesome experience! I may or may not make it my life goal to make pizza with PJ.
  8. felicia May 26, 2015 at 11:26 am #
    hi, i just looked at the papa johns website and both the greek pizza and the garlic knots are on the menu...at least in augusta, ga. just letting you all know
    • Bev Weidner May 26, 2015 at 11:34 am #
      Good to know! I think they were added either yesterday or today. Woot!
  9. Sara @ Cake Over Steak May 26, 2015 at 11:35 am #
    Hahahah!! I love your account of this experience. Honestly I've always been a much bigger fan of Dominos than PeeJee's, but it was really cool to learn about their process and how it's pretty legit. Can I work there?!?!?!?
  10. Susan May 26, 2015 at 2:59 pm #
    That was an awesome experience! Thank you so much for sharing it with us! On another note. We have ordered plenty of Papa John's pizzas and none of them have ever looked that good when they arrived!!
  11. Melissa @ Treats With a Twist May 26, 2015 at 8:01 pm #
    OMG! What a cool experience!! I'd totally do that!! And I'll touch his hair for you...and blame it on you, screaming your name as they haul me off to their Harry Potter quarantine. Then I'd cry for Greek pizza.
  12. Robin Troy May 27, 2015 at 11:55 am #
    I'm with you darling! I'm so glad you are doing so well! God Bless You! Love, Robin
  13. Lori S May 28, 2015 at 8:48 pm #
    I absolutely love reading your blog. I am cracking up at your "I call him...now" comments - so funny!
  14. Laura @ Laura's Culinary Adventures June 3, 2015 at 6:50 am #
    What a fun experience!
  15. Jessica @ Stuck On Sweet June 4, 2015 at 4:38 pm #
    bah! So fun!!! Now I want Piiiizzzaa
  16. Kate June 6, 2015 at 9:12 am #
    How cool! I love stuff like this too, gives me a bit more respect for the big guys. It is my dream to be able to flip the dough like that without it landing in a big plop. One day......


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