A Wildfire of passion

By Caleb Decker

The minimum wage in Chicago is $8.25. But my dad worked for nothing at a bakery. Not a single cent. During one's teenage years, they are often unclear of what they want to do with their life. They are in somewhat of an identity crisis. My dad was not one of these people. Nothing would stop him of achieving his goal of cuisine... From a small bakery in a Chicago suburb, to one of the most successful restaurants in all of the U.S., follow Joe Decker's journey to the top of the food chain.

Pizza- The Italian way


Pepperoni- where would it be without its counterpart and accomplice, pizza? Pizza has celebritized pepperoni, along with several other pizza toppings. Although consumed on a regular basis by overweight Americans, Italy is what pizza calls home. Nothing compares to the smoky crunch of the amber pizza crust, the tangy fresh mozzarella cheese on your tongue, the zesty homemade tomato sauce of an Italian pizza. There have been thousands of variations of pizza, but, certainly the best is the authentic Italian pizza.

Although Pizza and Italy go hand in hand as arguably the most popular international food, it wasn't always that way. It wasn't until the 19th century, when pizza was invented. It slowly started out in Naples, as a form of fast-food. The simpler, the better was pizza's motto in the early stages of its existence. A classic pizza made with the simple ingredients of tomatoes, basil and oregano, and just a touch of garlic, salt and olive oil was known by the name of pizza Napoletana. Surely, it was the most popular pizza of its time (“Walks of Italy”). The recipe for this pizza is quite simple.

Pizza Napoletana

(makes dough for 4 pizzas, each one about 12 inches in diameter):

  • 600 mL of warm water

  • 7 cups (1 kg) flour, type “00″*

  • 2.25 teaspoons (25 grams) yeast

  • 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

  • 1.5 tablespoons salt

  • 2 teaspoons sugar

Into a medium bowl with warm water, scatter the yeast. Mix the yeast until it dissolves. Then, shape all the flour into a volcano on the table. The yeast and warm water mix needs to now be poured in the circle of the flour volcano. For ten to fifteen minutes, knead everything together until the dough is malleable and smooth. For best results, sprinkle flour on the surface of the table so the dough doesn’t stick. Now, put the dough in a olive oil-greased bowl. Cover the bowl and let it sit for at least five hours. To add authenticity to your pizza, make a cross on top of the dought. This was viewed as “Blessing the bread”, as it is an ancient Italian custom. As the dough sits, preheat the oven (preferably wood-burning) to roughly 400˚F. Transfer the dough back to the floured table surface. Beat the dough to get rid of any spare bubbles. Separate the dough in half and let it rest for a couple of minutes. Even out each section into a twelve-inch disk. You can now choose either thick crust (pizza alta), or thin crust (pizza bassa) for your pizza. Now place the dough on a oiled baking sheet or pan. For the tomato sauce, evenly spread it around the dough. To start, bake each pizza for ten minutes before adding cheese and any other ingredients. Once the pizza is dark brown and the cheese is melted. For another little Italian practice, add basil leaves to the finished product (“Walks of Italy”).

Areas all around the world claim to have the best pizza. Chicago has its deep dish. New York has its New York style pizza, and many other variations of pizzas have been created all around the world. Although, one style of pizza reigns supreme: Italian.

Caleb Decker

Storydecker - 2:6:15, 2.38 PM by Caleb Decker

The life of a shoe

What's this now? It's seven in the morning and I already have to be put to work? On top of that, it's Friday. This means that someone forgot to do the prices so now my human needs to swoop in and save the day. As if he hasn't done enough for this company already. Oh well, who am I to complain. Everyday, I get a first-row seat to see all these concoctions my owner creates. Although his sweaty, greasy feet are very pungent, it isn't the only thing I can smell. I'll never know what he is making, but it doesn't matter. The smells fumigate into the air as I can slightly pick up the scent.

What do I smell today? Cumin? Rosemary? A hint of oregano? To be blatantly honest, I don't care. All I know is it smells amazing. Everyday I wake up to this and it is beautiful. I admire this man's dedication from early mornings late nights. I must praise him, he is dedicated to his craft as it shows. he spoils his family with delicious meals in which they take for granted, he picks up the slack of other oddly hired employees and above all else: he controls one of the most successful restaurants in all of the U.S.

Joe Decker: His story

It's clearly winter. I can tell by the chilled brass handle of my front door. A long day at work means I deserve a nice beer and watch some t.v. Then the realization hits me: I still have to make dinner. This night isn't any different that the others, but I would love a break, since I cook all day. It's my job. As I enter the house, I am greeted by my slightly aggravating puppy. A somewhat clean kitchen awaits what I have to make. I can hear my younger son slaving on his homework upstairs. He has complained constantly recently due to the colossal amount of homework. My oldest son is at swimming practice. His second one of the day, as he has two almost everyday. It has been around 45 minutes since I got home, and have started on making dinner, when, my son comes down.

"Hey dad, can I interview you? It's for school," my son Caleb asks.

"Shouldn't you work on your toothpick bridge too?"

He looks at me sarcastically, "We both know I'm putting that off till the last weekend." I know he's right, so I agree to the interview.

My son rarely questions my about my profession and how it came to be. So, naturally, we had a lot to talk about. I started explaining how I started. My first job wasn't necessarily a job- I worked for free. It seems like a scene straight out of a movie, but hey, you would do anything to continue doing what you love. Right?


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