May 1, 2024

Using Pizza to Raise Awareness and Money for Muscular Dystrophy with The Real Billy Z

Using Pizza to Raise Awareness and Money for Muscular Dystrophy with The Real Billy Z

This week my guest is Billy Zureikat, known online as The Real Billy Z. He's a home cook, baker and pizza-maker who's life took an unexpected turn. He went from an active lifestyle, playing basketball and working at ESPN radio, to a challenging 8-year medical journey that resulted in a diagnosis of limb girdle muscular dystrophy 2L.

As his body underwent changes, he found solace and a newfound passion in the kitchen. He traded his jersey for an apron, re-focusing his energy on becoming a better home cook and baker. Sandwiches and pizza became his canvas, and from that emerged the "Tripping Billy" pizza. Little did he know, this creation would become a catalyst for raising funds and awareness for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Teaming up with some of Chicago's best pizzerias and restaurants, he shares his story of reinvention through food. It became a way to show people that even in the face of change, positive things can happen. Over the past few years, he's collaborated with over 50 culinary giants, raising $50,000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.   He's been the Illinois Ambassador for the MDA since January of 2022.

Billy's website
Billy's Instagram, TikTok and YouTube
Donate to The Muscular Dystrophy Association


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Most days, I take my health for granted. I think I'm in relatively good health.

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Sure, I could be in better shape. But overall, I think I'm pretty healthy. Today's guest is the real Bill easy as he's known on the internet. He's also someone who is in pretty good health. In fact, he was a big sports guy. He even worked at ESPN. He loved basketball. And then around age 30, he started falling down. He was having more and more trouble with his legs, but didn't know what was happening. Today you'll hear his story and how it relates to pizza. This is crispier. And you're listening to Chefs Without Restaurants. The show where I speak with culinary entrepreneurs and people working in the food and beverage industry outside of a traditional restaurant setting.

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I have 31 years of working in kitchens, but not restaurants.

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And I currently operate a personal chef service throwing dinner parties in the Washington DC area. So after a lot of testing, it turns out that Billy has Limb Girdle muscular dystrophy. It's a genetic disease, but nobody in his family apparently has it. I'll let you listen to Billy tell that story. So why are we talking about it here? Well, Billy started cooking at home and eventually fell in love with pizza. And while he makes many kinds of pizza, he has a signature pie called the tripping Billy. And what he's been doing with this is going to pizzerias around Chicago and doing collabs he lets the pizzeria adapt it into their style. So one place might have a Detroit pie and another place might have a tavern style pizza.

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And part of the proceeds are going to the Muscular Dystrophy Association. To date Billy has raised over $50,000 for them. I don't know when you're listening to this episode. But currently in the month of May 2024. You can find the signature tripping Billy pizza AP quads in Chicago every Thursday night throat May.

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Billy's story is inspiring, for sure. And it's also fun if you like pizza, because we talk a lot about pizza. And while 50 grand is a lot of money, I'm sure it's just a drop in the bucket when it comes to funding something like the Muscular Dystrophy Association. So I'm sharing a link in the show notes as well as on the chefs without website. If you click that link, you can go over and throw them some money in Billy's name. As I've said before, I'd love to have a philanthropic aspect to this community. So let's support the people who are in this community doing amazing things. As always, thanks so much for taking the time to listen to this. The show will be coming right up after a word from our sponsor.

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Hey, how's it going? Thanks so much for coming on the show.

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Thank you for having me.

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I am anticipating this kind of going in a whole bunch of different places. You know, I anticipated talking about sports and pizza and muscular dystrophy something probably we we've never dug into here. How does it make sense to start talking about sports?

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Because that seems like you know such a big part of your life.

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You know, especially on the younger. Were you always into sports like were you a kid who played sports and was obsessed with sports? Yeah,

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I love that. I mean, I was a kid who grew up in the Southside of Chicago. So you know, in the 90s I was born in the 80s but like grew up in the 90s Bulls fan. Yeah. Diehard Bulls fan Jordan. You know what I mean? Like yeah, in the 90s I didn't think I didn't think your basketball teams were actually like allowed to lose you know, we rarely lost like the 1996 season we we lost 10 games like the entire year last time games and that's what I grew up around. So you know, I watch a Bulls game and watch Jordan Pippen Rodman win a championship and then they go into my driveway and try to mimic it.

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You know, I'm always doing the five four have three and I'm just trying to hit a you know a buzzer beater in the driveway.

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So I had that growing up I had the hoop dreams I love basketball is my favorite sport.

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I played other sports too. But basketball has always been my my love. And yeah, I played it for played forever and, you know, played throughout like high school and stuff. And then I, you know, I wanted to one day, you know, go to the NBA and that wasn't going to happen because I was five, nine and I couldn't dunk. So it was my dreams of, you know, taking it to a professional level weren't ever going to happen. But I decided to follow and you know, get into a career around sports, and I loved writing. I love being creative, and so excited to study journalism. And I double majored in college and broadcast and print journalism. So I, you know, I was a writer, I hosted a radio show, and I eventually interned and then got hired at ESPN radio here in Chicago, and I was a started as a producer, produce the White Sox World Series was one of my first really cool, that's my first gig kind of as a professional. Then it produced bulls games and started producing sports talk shows and eventually produced the number one sports talk show in in Chicago called the waddle and Silvy show. And my job and task was to create all of the audio elements on the show all the creative work, basically, anything you heard on the show, that wasn't the host speaking was done by me. So like the highlight packages, the funny little bits, the intros, the music, everything was controlled by me, and I just love to, you know, be able to take the thoughts and goofy things in my head and bring those to life.

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And, you know, it was a sports were really like everything to me, I loved it, being able to play it. And also, you know, working in a career in it. It was cool. It was like my dream.

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I imagine like as a sports fan, if you're not, you know, very few people are of the caliber to play, like the NBA or something like that. So I imagine like, that's almost next best, like, if you're a sports guy, I mean, ESPN, come on, I mean, like, that's, I there's no one better in the sports, you know, broadcasting journalism kinda area was,

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that was my goal. My goal was always, you know, I had options when I was in college.

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And I was really, I was always an ambitious person, still to this day. And, you know, obviously, we'll learn more about my story and my ambitions and stuff. But when I was a freshman in college, just to kind of, you know, give a little background, I started, you know, hosting a radio show and kind of getting my feet wet a little bit. And I hosted a sports talk show called the practice squad, which was a reference to a practice squad in football, which is basically a group of players that aren't good enough to be on the main team, but they're just waiting. If somebody gets injured, they're, they're the next guy up to join the main roster. And that was my joke about you know, I'm in college, I'm not, I'm not, I'm not ready for the big leagues yet. But like, one day, I'm gonna get there. And I would reach out to all the local teams, the bulls, bears cup socks, to try to get media passes. So I can go to the locker rooms and learn how to cover an event as a professional, but I was in college, and usually at you know, there, if they find out your college radio station, or they just assume you're a, you know, a college student, they're not going to approve it, I was able to get around it by just using the call letters of the radio station. So we were WL IRA and I never said we were, you know, Louis University, the college I went to, and I ended up getting media passes for the bulls and bears, and I got a taste of professional experience at a very young age. And so I learned how to handle myself in a press box professionally, you know, watching a game, you know, going to a Bears game, as a college student, but in a press box is very different than watching this fan. You're not cheering and clapping, you can see the best play in the world happened in front of you, you're just at the watch. And I learned how to be professional. And I knew that at that point, I knew Okay. The next step for me is the four letters, I want to be at ESPN. And that was like my goal and I basically fixated over it until I got it finally got a connection, a contact, and then interviewed and you know, started the internship and the internship led to a job and I had basically worked almost nine years there, I had some great stories that will last a lifetime for me, but you know, the career the output, for all the effort that I put into it working countless hours, the hustling the pay in the business was very difficult and I had to work two jobs to make it work and it got to the point where I was just kind of getting burnt out. And I decided I kind of wanted more in life than just having a cool job and I had to make a decision to kind of get out of that career and and I ended up doing that and I've been in the same business now.

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I've been now for 13 years same industry but it's very different than sports and in media but that is where my heart you know live basically majority of my childhood into my early adult life.

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I do think that's sad, you know, you, we see a lot of those parallels, like in the food industry like, people love, they want to be a chef, or they want to work in the food industry. And it's like, oh, well, the pay sucks, the benefits here are quite often exploited, you know, there's a whole big conversation around staging and stuff like that.

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It's like, you know, the honor to work for free for, you know, one of these really great people, and is that even something we should legally be doing and, but you know, that, like, there's some things that you really love and have a passion for, but ultimately, they don't pay the bills or take care of you. And or it could just be like, a toxic work environment, and you know, things like that. And, yeah, there's

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a lot of different ways. So you know, in, in radio, just like in restaurants, like it's the parallel between media, I mean, sports, major media, in general, and the restaurant industry are really do go hand in hand. Because, you know, if I wanted to continue working in sports, maybe I could have done that I was one of the best known as one of the best sound producers in the city, and could have worked my way up. And I could have maybe down the road made something work. But you know, I watch people like the host of the show that I produced, he hustled for almost 25 years. And to get to that point, it's like I don't you know, some people have it in them. I just didn't, I didn't have an immediate to do that.

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And you'll see that with people in the restaurant industry that have just been working countless 70 hour weeks, never get to see family and make the sacrifices to make it work because it's what their passion is. So, you know, we sometimes have to be faced with our decisions that is this worth it? Is there something bigger for me? And sometimes, you know, you have, you might have to take the harder route and pivot, and, you know, pivoting, you got to learn about, learn about here, sometimes, it can be as can be great, but it also can be very difficult.

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So how do we connect the dots between sports in your love of sports? And let's say food and cooking?

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What, you know, what happened there? Why don't we dig into that? Because, you know, you can't I mean, you need that middle part of the story. And then, you know, we'll dive into the food story.

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Yeah, I think it's just a little like, little minor, minor details, I guess I would say. So. It kind of carries on into the, the timeline I was talking about before. So I was about 29 When I left media, and yeah, right around the age of 30, I was still playing basketball more recreationally, just, you know, a couple of nights a week with friends for a couple hours, we'll just rent out a gym and play. And all of a sudden, I started experiencing these really weird balance issues. While playing. I would be on defense, for example, and just like backpedaling and losing my balance and falling over. Or I may decide I want to, you know, take a move on a quick cut to a different direction all sudden, I fall over and I trip.

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And I just assumed I was getting I was getting older. And I'm 30 and I'm over the hill. And this is just what it looks like. Now, though, I guess what I thought at the time, I had no idea because it wasn't, it wasn't like constant. It was maybe like once every five, six games or something, you know, it was just enough. It was like enough to like kind of question it. But like also, I just did what any guidance early 30s probably would do, for the most part, just ignore it. And though as time went on those those falls would happen more often. And I was noticing more and more issues with like running and you know, moving around little choppier and those falls that would happen that would happen on the basketball court would start happening around my apartment. I'd noticed like getting up and down stairs was even getting like a little difficult getting out of a seat, just like little everyday things.

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But you must have known that that wasn't normal for someone who's 30 Right.

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Yeah, yeah.

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But you know, at what, at the time at the age of 30. It was it was still very minor. It took a little bit for it to progress to be noticeable. It was more just like at the at the start. It was like yeah, no, I just thought it was just tripping. I honestly it was I literally just thought I was I was uncoordinated or something, you know, I'm just kind of getting up there. But then it's like slowly, you know, a year passes two years pass. That's when I'm noticing things like the muscle mass and my legs getting smaller, like I would wear like tights or like leggings under my basketball shorts. And I'd noticed like I'd kind of pull them together. And they were loose. And you know, they're they're called tights for a reason. They know that they shouldn't be they shouldn't be bad. Yeah. And so that's the point where it's starting to be become a little more eye opening. And then I went on I went on a trip I went to Paris.

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And I was at the notre DOM cathedral. There's a spiral staircase that you can go up to feel like a nice city view and I struggled getting up those stairs like pulling myself on the railing to get up there and I finally got to the top and I was like, drenched in sweat and I at that point I realized like okay, when I get back home, I gotta go to the doctor. And so started going to the doctor to figure out what was going on why I was losing my balance when my legs are becoming weaker. And I got nothing but a bunch of medical bills. I did a bunch of tests. You name the tests of Dhinam. I've done them. No answer. No answers, no answers.

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And this went on for years. I would hide this. Friends didn't know family didn't know like close friends may have like notice, like little things like, oh, it looks like you're limping a little bit. I'm like, you know, what I would do is I just worked out really hard. During that time, I tried to fight whatever was going on. And it was basically just kind of putting a bandaid on something bigger. So like, when people would notice, hey, you know, you're a little slow getting up those stairs, you okay? I'm like, oh, yeah, it was just like damn sore. I would just make excuses up because I didn't, I didn't have an answer. I stopped going to the doctor because I felt like I was getting no direction there. And, you know, I'm falling a lot like I would fall constantly. And, you know, thankfully, I never really hurt myself. But I would just keep getting up. And it just kind of became, you know, the term New Normal was the thing that we all learned during COVID. But it was like my new normal. And it was weird. I was just kind of pushing in the back of my mind, even though something was obviously very serious was happening. And well, what were

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doctors saying? I mean, were they just like, you came in, they didn't have an answer. And it was just like, no follow. Like, I can't imagine that. I mean, it sounds like a pretty huge deal. And for a doctor to like, just like not follow up. You didn't have someone who was like, Okay, we're going to try this. We're going to try this, like

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we did. I literally tried like six different tests, and they all came back inconclusive. They said, like, we think there might be, you know, there might be some type of muscle muscle disease, but we don't, you know, they don't have any proof. And, and it was at the time, there weren't like, there weren't a lot of advancements in the medical industry regarding what was going on. So yeah, I just kept kind of like carrying it on and living in a, you know, to put it like nicely kind of living a lie. Like people would say you Okay, and I'm like, Yeah, I'm fine. I have some kind of muscle thing going on. That's, that's why I would say I have some kind of muscle thing going on, I never had an answer. And so flash forward, now, this is 2020. And all the sudden gyms shut down, there's a little thing called a pandemic that happens and our lives around the world change my life specifically change when gyms closed, all of a sudden, I went from having an active lifestyle.

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Even though I was falling, I was still active, I still tried to work out at that point in my life, I couldn't run anymore. I couldn't get up and down stairs without a railing. I had I had a real disability and I and I was just trying to do what I can and do adaptive things, to just fight whatever's going on. But all of a sudden gyms closed and now I go from an active lifestyle to a sedentary lifestyle. And then I start to see more of a decline in a quicker, more obvious site where I would fall maybe a couple times a week in the house. And, you know, I'd like I said, I can't get upstairs anymore. I even when I was sitting down, I had to just push up and push up a little bit to stand up. And, you know, everything was was a you know, kinda you know, it was almost at a standstill, because even hospitals were filled because of COVID. So I couldn't really even go to the hospital to get checked out. But then everything changed. February 13, we're coming up on the anniversary of it. It was with my, my girlfriend, who's now my fiancee, Rachel, and we wanted to get out of the house. This is now actually 2021 We're at February 13 of 2021. We decided to get out of the house a little bit. And maybe just go to like this little outlet mall that's in Chicago, we're just outside of Chicago here just to get a change of scenery, you know, I take one step out of my car, and I fall my leg gives out. And this time, I can't get up. I fell hundreds of times over the years. But I've never hurt myself. I always just kind of pull myself back up and carry on. So you're just laying in a parking lot on the ground. I'm laying I'm laying on the floor in this cold parking garage.

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It's there's still snow and like mud on the ground. And I'm just sitting there and I felt something pop. So I'm in shock at the moment. So I'm just telling my friends, it's like, give me a second I'll get up just give me a second. There's cars passing by looking like saying Do you need help to help?

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Like, no, just just give me a second. And I compose myself push myself up and just hop to the car. And I laugh about it now because if there's something just it's just me in a nutshell.

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I'm sitting in the car and Rachel turns to me. It's just like, are you what are you? What are you thinking? I'm like, give me a couple minutes. We'll we'll go we'll go shopping in a moment. Let me just you know,

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let me just your

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Yeah, well, she goes did you look looked down at your foot, and like what and I looked down and I was wearing this pair of Adidas called Ultra blue sneakers. And they're basically all match. And I can see I'm looking down my foot and all you see is like something just pointing and pushing up against the mash. And your tie your was it your big toe toe, my big toe dislocated, and like a joint dislocated my big toe, and it popped straight up. So I was like, yeah, we'll go child. And she's like, Yeah, no, and I'm in pain. But it's like, at the moment, I'm just in shock, you know. So we end up going to the ER, and then I experienced worst pain in my life. And I had to pop this whole pack in and I was just the worst pain ever. But now I'm in the ER talking to the doctors there. And they're saying, like, what happened? And I said, you know, I fell and they're like, do you fall off of something? Like, no, I literally took a step. And they're like, that's, there's like a 20% or less, I think it was 20 I think it's probably like, I think it was like 5% chance that that can dislocate without like me breaking my foot. But the fact that I didn't, I didn't fall from a height or anything. I literally just took a step and my just my body buckled forward on it. They said, You know, that's that's a, you know, this, obviously, there's something there's something happened to do this. I'm like, Well, I have an underlying issue. You know, and I can't explain what was going on. And they said, Okay, well, you know, you need to you need to go and see and see noon or I'll see a neurologist and she'll my fiancee, really close friend worked at Rush Medical Center here in Chicago, she was a neurologist, but she specialized in a different field. But she was able to reach out to another doctor and said, Hey, I have a doctor for you and set an appointment for you next week, you need to go. And so that was a wake up call to go to the doctor because I didn't go back since 2016. You know, so I want almost four year four and a half years, between doctor visits. And I watched my body decline over the year. So now it's it's March of 2021. And I go to the doctor, we you know, we talk about it, we do tests and he says, Hey, here's the deal, I did some research, I think you may have a form of muscular dystrophy. There's genetic testing, which was not available when you were here in 2016, there's been a lot of advancements, I'm going to rub a swab and have your take a swab of your nose and your cheek, and there's an 88% chance we'll get a diagnosis. So I said, do whatever you need to do do it.

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And a week and a half later, after eight years of trying to figure out why I was losing my balance and falling and all my body was changing. I was diagnosed with what's called Limb Girdle muscular dystrophy to L. It is a very rare form of muscular dystrophy that you're born with. But it can take shape at any point in your life. And there are like 28 different subtypes of this specific disease that affect different people in different ways. And, you know, the severity is in such mind, I was born with it.

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It's a genetic disease, with no one in my family having any type of history toward

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it. Really, nobody in our family had that. So not nobody was saying like, Hey, you should check on this because your cousin or someone had like, it wasn't a thing that you knew,

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Oh, we went through, we went through a family tree, there's nothing. So it's like the sheer chance that even happened to me it was like a lottery ticket basically like a bad lottery ticket. And

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I don't know, I always in my mind thought that it was something like you'd be born with and you'd know that there would be like a three year old toddler who had it? Is it rare for it to like come on at this stage in life?

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Yeah, it was it was more of I mean, it could take shape in any point in your life.

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Usually people have some kind of, you know, some kind of indication I didn't I mean that until 30. And to make a, you know, to make a food reference, it's like, I didn't just have like an appetizer, I had a full meal of experience of, you know, life experience playing sports and being active. And all of a sudden, now at age 38, I get diagnosed with a rare disease, I have a disability, and the disease is progressive. So it's gonna get worse as time goes on.

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And but I have no timetable of how that's gonna look or what it may look like I could I could be physically the same five years from now I could look very different. I don't know. And it sucked and it hit me like a ton of bricks. When I got that news, it was a relief that I got a diagnosis and I finally have answers. Now I don't have to say I have this weird muscular thing I can say I have muscular dystrophy. And this is a rare diseases one out of every I think 250,000 people in the world have this. And you know, I and I can at least there's no treatments. There's no cures, but I at least know that this is what I have and I can put myself in the best position to succeed moving forward and just adapt.

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So you

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didn't have any like, you know, you took so there was so much time between when the symptoms started and when you asked I got treated like, it didn't advance it anymore. Like sometimes you have something like cancer and because you put off getting treatment and it gets worse, and you get to a point of no return, but like it would have mattered if you know, the first time you went in, they told you like maybe like, you could do something like walk with a cane earlier and prevent falling, but there's nothing because you're not taking like medicine that's not hearing it or treating it or anything, it just, yeah, I

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just have to it would have been, there would have been really no difference, I would just avoid knowing what I had.

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And now I have more clarity and the guessing game, and I wouldn't have to, I think I would have adjusted to it a lot sooner, mentally and physically.

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All of it would have been a better adjustment. You know, but there would have been really not nothing I could have done. And that's you know, that's just unfortunate. It's it's you kind of feel helpless in a way. On

00:25:48.750 --> 00:26:07.380
top of COVID. I mean, mind you, this is also going on, during like the COVID days, which we all had trouble with, mentally and all that I can't imagine the mental load on you combining all of the things with the fear of COVID and isolation from people but also having this unknown disorder, that's, you know,

00:26:07.799 --> 00:26:13.200
yeah, I tell you what, like, when I got my diagnosis, like I said, I got some relief.

00:26:11.309 --> 00:26:35.039
And it's like, oh, look, I got clarity now. But then all of a sudden, I got hit with this massive, massive amount of despair. I was fixated on loss, I was all I was doing was focused on everything I couldn't do anymore. And then in the perspective of like, thinking about things in the future that I just can't do, and it's up.

00:26:35.039 --> 00:26:50.730
Because, you know, you know, my sports background. Now, you know, I'm a competitive, creative person. And that meant nothing. I've been successful in my life. And it meant at the time meant nothing, because I was just so fixated about loss.

00:26:51.779 --> 00:28:49.440
But you know, it's funny, during that time period, and this is a, I guess, a nice way to transition. It's like, during that time period, when I when I lost the ability to play sports, I needed a creative outlet. I didn't work in radio anymore. I work in logistics, and transportation. That's my job that I've been doing for 13 years. And it's not a creative industry at all. It's just, you know, it's different. And I needed something. So I essentially traded my jerseyan for an apron. And I said, I want to become a better cook, and eventually become a better baker or become a baker because I never really had a baking experience. I always liked cooking, I you know, cooked on my own. Just like when I started living on my own, I would just practice and cook but I really started focusing on getting better. And that was through watching a lot of Food Network, YouTube video tutorials, reading cookbooks. I like to read recipes, a couple you know, if I was deciding to cook a dish, I'd like to read like two or three of two different recipes, two or three different recipes of the same dish, right by different people to see the similarities, differences. And then I always like to find see if I can find a video. So I'm making it because I am a visual learner. And I feel like I can replicate things when I see it. And that's I just started practicing instead of going to the gym and shooting 103 pointers, I was, you know, eventually like making 10 loaves of bread for people and giving it away on to my friends just so I can get better. And I found joy in the kitchen. And it gave me a sense of it gave me a place of calm while everything around me was turbulent. And I didn't know what was going on. And once we got to the point of COVID, that's when like I was I kind of got to the point of my cooking journey or whatever you want to call it where I didn't necessarily need recipes anymore. I trusted my understanding of flavor and understanding techniques. And I would take on just really long cooking projects because I had nothing really to do besides that, you know,

00:28:49.859 --> 00:28:54.480
what did you start with? Like, what were your first things in the kitchen that you really dug into?

00:28:55.049 --> 00:30:15.720
Um, man I did, like early on it was like early early on, I would just make like really simple things like you know, you know, just making like meal prep meals, cooking some like basic chicken breast vegetables, but like learning how to improperly roast vegetables and not have them just be super dry. Eventually like learning how to roast chickens working with fish, but then like, the big thing I really in like 2016 2017 when I kind of when I had that session where I told you I was going to the doctor and I was kind of getting like, you know, striking out with getting answers. i At that point I really wanted to get into baking and I've always wanted to get into savory baking so I really dove into pizza making bread making a pizza making specifically breads and pizzas and it's all kind of hand in hand anyway. But I got into that and I started with like Detroit style pizza just because that was best pieces of pizza suited for a home cook you didn't need to have a super high heat oven and you just use a you know Detroit pan and I would teach myself that and then and then I got I got into sourdough baking Um, but yeah, detail pizzas and bread was was a huge, huge part of it for me. And then once we got into like the pandemic and stuff I started doing like bigger longer projects like I made my own hotdogs from scratch. I

00:30:15.720 --> 00:30:17.940
don't know anyone who's made their own hot dogs.

00:30:18.480 --> 00:30:21.480
That's right really big endeavor there.

00:30:21.509 --> 00:30:46.890
I've made I've actually literally made everything from scratch except the mustard and I made Chicago style hot dogs. And I made everything besides the, you know, like the mustard and like the relish. I made the bonds and made the all hot dogs and it was very funny. I was so hardcore. I was excited. I just liked I got, I would watch like, you know, I would watch a different like cooking channels on YouTube. There's a pretty popular channel. Binging with Babish.

00:30:46.950 --> 00:30:51.359
Yeah. And he just had his book come out, you know, a couple of months ago. Yeah. So like he

00:30:51.359 --> 00:30:56.609
made he made hotdogs once and like, okay, like I Okay. Again, I told you I'm a visual learner. I saw him do it.

00:30:56.609 --> 00:30:59.099
I'm like, okay, I can do this.

00:30:56.609 --> 00:31:02.039
And so I went to the butcher shop here and I remember trying to hunt down

00:31:02.309 --> 00:31:04.500
all your lips and assholes. Oh, no, I

00:31:04.500 --> 00:31:37.230
Yeah. Get those in a box, a backpack goes up. I remember going to a butcher shop here. And I was asking for sheep casings. I needed natural casing so I can make the hotdogs and stuff them up. And I remember asking the butcher and he was like, oh, yeah, his like eyes lit up when I when I asked him for that. And he goes, what do you what do you make him? Like I want to make hotdogs? You make your own hot sauce like yeah, I've never done it and he's like, okay, well what do you hear Hold on What do you what kind of meat you think you're gonna do on my lips and apples?

00:31:34.980 --> 00:32:40.319
I didn't know what we're supposed to do. And now he's like here I'm gonna give you some skirt steak trimmings and I have some a bunch of great trimmings you'll use we're gonna make a really really good quality hotdogs and yeah, so I ended up making someone I know once I made them smoked them. I vacuum sealed some and I took them I took a couple to the actual butcher and I made it like kind of paid for it. And like he got to try him and he loved them so well. Yeah, I would like take on these crazy long projects. And it was fun like just going to the farmers market. That was one thing one really big highlight of like quarantine time was the one place I was able to get to was taking advantage of the great farmers markets in Chicago because they were outdoors. We still have the mascot but it's least like we're out there and I joke that like I blackout when I go to the farmers markets because I get so excited seeing all these different vegetables just buy everything Yeah, buy everything I remember I came back home once with like six pounds it's just you know peppers for some reason. I leave.

00:32:40.920 --> 00:32:44.700
What was the plan there? What are you doing with six pounds or shishito peppers

00:32:44.730 --> 00:32:50.250
there was there was no plan I just I got I got there and I'm like, oh Sheetal peppers, buying from one vendor?

00:32:50.279 --> 00:32:57.630
Oh shishito peppers buying from another vendor and like I just kept doing that for some reason.

00:32:52.859 --> 00:33:43.799
But I came back home and I'm like, Okay, I have only ways I've ever prepared shishito peppers prior to that. We're just roasting them. And like blistering, I'm like I don't want to do that. Let me get creative here. So I decided to make this essentially Sheetal pepper cream sauce. I had an idea of based off of a dish called Roskam crema Mexican dish with the Blondel peppers, onions and garlic and heavy cream and it's like nice, like thick sauce that usually use them like case studies and tacos in Mexico City and things. And I kind of like built an idea off of that. So it's shallots, garlic, Shishito peppers, heavy cream, reduce that down, add Parmesan finish a little nut bag and all of a sudden they have this like coarse, flavorful, rich sauce.

00:33:43.859 --> 00:33:47.819
You don't puree it up at all. Just I like they're like

00:33:47.849 --> 00:35:15.750
yeah, Trump's the peppers. You get a little vitamin it has texture to it, but it just like it's something like I've never I didn't think it was a thing and then like okay, what do I do with the sauce now and I was obviously deep in the pizza making and it's the end of summer at that point as of September and so I'm like okay, well, peppers and corn go well together and like put this on a pizza. So I just made like a simple kind of like grandma's style sheet pan pizza with that cream sauce. That's just you know, pepper cream sauce and mozzarella and some corn. And I finished it with like some scallions and that was my this pizza that I made with just kind of made up and it was awesome. Like the flavors are great. It was really rich but like I was I felt like I was on to something and then a year later. This is a few months after my diagnosis. Now this is you know more toward like June of 2020 2021. I decided to revisit that pizza. I'm like I want to make this over. I know I could do it better. I'm like I'm better at making pizza. Now I'm more creative and so I decided to make a Detroit style pizza with that same sauce. I added some cheddar cheese for color, pickled jalapenos, for richness because it needed to get some balance with all that cream. And then, you know baked it off has like the crit you know the caramelized cheesy edges, the frico that you see on the signatures of a Detroit style pizza, but I decided to roast off to Sheetal peppers and put one large pepper on each slice and finish it with scallions and now I have this actually like show stopping. Sounds

00:35:15.750 --> 00:35:22.260
amazing pizza. I want one I want to I want a slice right now. I'm so mad. We should be doing this live in Chicago now.

00:35:22.469 --> 00:35:26.219
We're gonna we're gonna figure out a way yeah, you might be sad. Yeah,

00:35:26.250 --> 00:35:38.579
you're gonna have no that's not that sounds amazing. And something that's truly unique. You know? It's like so far off of like, I don't know, there's not even reference points. It's not like a play on a pepperoni or whatever.

00:35:39.090 --> 00:35:50.099
No, it was just it was called the I called it the Sheesh, that's corny. I love naming food. Like if I had a dream job just slightly let me work for restaurants. And I'll give you the pun names for your for your cocktails here.

00:35:50.250 --> 00:35:57.239
So you're the guy like when you go in the hotdog shop that has like 50 hotdogs and they'll have a different name you've got Yeah, that's that's

00:35:57.239 --> 00:36:07.800
what I that's what I do. So yeah, that was a that was the I created my own little pizza called it the Sheesh, that's corny. And it was fun.

00:36:03.449 --> 00:36:25.139
Like that was my like, it was a nice like, achievement for myself and something I can only put a feather in my cap and I have friends try it. And I became friends with the owner of poly G's here in Chicago, Derek Tang, one of the best pizzerias in the city. It's a franchise of the policies in New York. Yeah,

00:36:25.139 --> 00:36:29.159
I've been to the one and one of them in New York and Brooklyn, Brooklyn. I've been there.

00:36:29.159 --> 00:36:45.539
Yeah. So yeah, he kind of became like my pizza mentor over the years, I would reach out to him and say, Hey, you want to try this? And he would give me feedback. And I had them try that and he loved it the refined version, or you tried both? He tried to initial during 2020 and then he tried a more refined version and

00:36:45.599 --> 00:36:47.940
and that was a Detroit at the time that you were having him try?

00:36:48.090 --> 00:36:51.480
Yeah, I was at Detroit.

00:36:48.090 --> 00:36:58.739
That was like the true really best iteration of that pizza.

00:36:51.480 --> 00:37:43.920
And and, you know, my story to make I guess, make a quick transition for easy transition for you. I got a call from Derek. You know, a few months later, this is a give you a timeline around like, October of 2021. I got a call from Derek and he says, Hey, we're putting on a pizza event. Where we're celebrating the best home pizza makers in Chicago. We're raising money for No Kid Hungry. And I would love to have you come in be one of the pizza makers, but I want you to make that that pizza. That pepper that Shishito Pepper and corn pizza that you make. And I'm like, I'd love to I have never worked in a kitchen before like a professional kitchen. And so I went to this event, I made 14 of those pizzas and every slice was accounted for and I had people coming up to me saying this is one of the best pizzas they've ever had.

00:37:43.920 --> 00:38:33.989
And I was floating. It was really cool because no one I never really had anybody outside of my friends and family trying to pizza. And so strangers that were paid money to get this event. Were like this pizza is awesome. And Derek was so proud of me he said hey, I want to put this pizza on special we have a spot available in November we do a monthly pizza special suddenly Sure let's do it. And so it was just gonna be a pizza on the menu and nothing more nothing less the sheets the sheets that's corny and then my my spider man origin story happens true story two weeks before that's gonna go on the menu. I was walking my dog Einstein and I lose my balance and fall as unfortunately was became kind of a normal thing for me. This time someone saw me fall she was walking behind me in my neighborhood and as I'm on the ground, like literally looks down at me

00:38:33.989 --> 00:38:37.769
just keeps walking.

00:38:33.989 --> 00:38:38.159
Like what like didn't help you at all

00:38:38.159 --> 00:38:45.809
like I was like I was a peasant like she just literally looking at it like almost like I sorted it didn't didn't step over me because of the sidewalk I was just kind of kept walking.

00:38:45.840 --> 00:39:20.820
And you know, I can't when I'm on the ground, I can't just stand up. I have to pull myself up right on top of my fence. And I was so furious, like furious at her but as more I was mad about myself it was kind of like what I told you earlier how I felt like I was just living alive for a long time hiding it and like nothing was wrong. I was sick of it. I was sick of being that way. And I picked up the phone. Like all Derek and I said hey, I want to rename the pizza. Six What do you want to call it said I want to call the pizza The tripping Billy that's amazing. He starts laughing he's

00:39:20.820 --> 00:39:23.880
like, not in a Dave Matthews Band way. 0%

00:39:23.880 --> 00:41:26.550
A Dave and I he actually said that to me to go honest. I can't stand Dave Matthews. They left they left a bunch of chips. They they let their chips fall into the Chicago River. Have you ever heard that crazy story? So not like it wasn't had nothing to do with Dave Matthews is but literally my name is Billy and I tripped. And I figured, you know, maybe I could turn a really tough time into a positive. Donate a couple dollars to the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Let me share my story of reinvention through cooking him through this pizza. And maybe I can do something more and show people that you can go through change and have some tough times happen and but you can like reinvent yourself and do things I want from Billy The basketball player to Billy the baker and Billy the cook. And food was my life and, you know, looking at, look, instead of looking, you know, I'm still I still like sneakers, but I'm not like not looking at basketballs or equipment anymore. I'm looking at knives and cookware, you know, this is like, the things I'm getting excited about. It just became it became this transition. And yeah, that started my, my little journey into food. And as time went on, I started using social media to get my story out there my own little kind of grassroots campaign to like, get people to follow, share my story. And, you know, did a lot of press and I used my old media experience, because now I had experience in in media, and I knew how to receive story pitches. And now, okay, like, I know how to pitch a story, I was on the other end of it. So I pitched my story out to people, and I got out, did press did media, and I realized that, you know, maybe food is my voice. And then I got it, I started becoming really confident. And I realized that, you know, maybe my voice has power. And I can become a voice for the voiceless for people that have a rare disease like mine, in this community that I can speak up and stand for, bring awareness to a disease and a cause that a lot of people don't really know about. And maybe that the Muscular Dystrophy Association probably reached a demographic that they probably can't even reach, because I'll be doing it through food and through drink and through sports. And just through me through my life, my instagram name has always been the same as the real Billy Z. It's just me.

00:41:27.090 --> 00:41:27.329

00:41:27.329 --> 00:41:33.210
I mean, you're literally the first person I've met who has muscular dystrophy.

00:41:29.280 --> 00:41:33.210
I know nothing about it. Right.

00:41:33.210 --> 00:41:55.769
Like, it's just not something I see in everyday life. You know, if I encountered someone with it, I don't know that. So yeah, you're definitely reaching a whole bunch of other people. I mean, hopefully people hear this show, you know, and raising awareness there. So then this turned into a much bigger thing with you doing pizzas at a lot of places with a lot of different people then, yeah,

00:41:55.769 --> 00:42:38.369
I decided to you know, I started doing so it started with the first tripping Billy and then I wanted to do collaborations with the restaurants that was my ideas like let's do sandwich collaborations, let me do sandwiches, pizza and sandwiches were like my, my two niches and I said, let me let me clever, clever with some restaurants use their massive follow up, work with larger restaurants that have big followings. And I can parlay their audience and get eyes and ears on my on my cause my story, and started doing couple pretty popular sandwich collaborations. And then I decided to bring that to tripping Billy with a different pizzeria. And then all of a sudden, like a few months into it. And the MDA reaches out to me, and they're like, Okay, who are you? We've raised like, you know, $3,000. For us, we

00:42:38.369 --> 00:42:41.760
don't even know who you are. And so you weren't you weren't working with them? Like no,

00:42:41.760 --> 00:43:30.900
no, I just I just did on my own, I just said, I always want to do this on my own. The MTA is the largest, non Reg, non government organization, basically, it's trying to find a cure for muscular dystrophy, ALS, and like 50, other neuromuscular diseases, by trying to find treatments or cures, they offer clinics, I go to an MDA clinic, I have an option to go to one once a month if I need to. And they they organize that where I get to meet, you know, seven, eight, different doctors and caretakers, and they coordinate all of that for me. So I can go visit that one point, if I really get to the point where I need a wheelchair, they can connect me with that. So it's like, I figured if there's ever going to be a cure one day, or treatments we have because of them, and so I'm just gonna kind of take the lead. And so they reached out to me and I told my story, and they were blown away.

00:43:30.900 --> 00:43:42.449
And they said, Hey, we would love to make you the ambassador for Illinois. And I said, I would love that. Let me just only thing I asked is let me just do my thing. I will always represent you the right way. But let me just kind of do my thing.

00:43:42.900 --> 00:44:17.519
And I did. I will also very self aware that like if this tripping Billy, if I didn't take that chance and rename that pizza and do that, I this wouldn't be a thing. So I thought it'd be really cool. To learn something I call the tripping Billy Chicago Tour, where I take my pizza, the trip and Billy and take it to different restaurants throughout the pizzeria throughout the city and restaurants and reinvent it, it's gonna be the same toppings that you heard the same description, but it could be a different style. It could be a deep dish. It could be a turnstile could be in New York style, a New Haven, you name it.

00:44:13.590 --> 00:44:29.519
There's so many different pizza styles around the city. And I thought it'd be really cool and almost like a metaphor for my story of reinvention, taking my pizza and having it shape shift to different styles. But essentially, it's still the same. I'm still the same person.

00:44:29.909 --> 00:44:54.449
It's almost same inside but physical might look different than the outside and I thought it'd be really cool to wrap that together. And now I'm on starting next week we're on stop number 15. I've done over 50 collaborations in total and pop ups. I've done my own pop ups now in the city here in the past two years and I've raised at the moment $48,000 for the MDA by oh that's

00:44:54.449 --> 00:44:57.989
a huge that's a huge donation for them.

00:44:58.170 --> 00:45:42.210
Yeah, it's been awesome. I I'm in to me, it's not even necessarily with the money I've been able to reach through social media and obviously through these collaborations, like I'm rich people throughout the world and at the end of the day, the money, the money is like a stat like I look at almost like sports. It's like my points per game, it can kind of give me an idea that like, okay, you know, it gives me a justification that like, yeah, okay, this, this is what I've done. But more importantly, I just want eyes in the ears. I want to tell my story to hopefully inspire you but raise awareness and break the stereotypes of a what this looks like if I walked in the room tomorrow. I have a cane. I don't need it to walk every step but I have a cane that's got a bird on it like I made I'm kind of just made it part of my life.

00:45:42.210 --> 00:46:30.090
And that's pretty baller. Yeah, I just searched I just literally live lean into it and make it part of my life. But like, I don't, I guess I don't, I would say I don't fit the the initial thought of what like you look like with a disability. And I'm raising awareness in a way that's honestly, I don't think I've ever been done before either. So I'd like to just break the stereotype and just get eyes and ears and the more people this reaches, the more the more that we better and you know, one day like it's been, thankfully in Chicago's supporting me really well, that says, This is my city, and that a lot of press and I've become, you know, got notifications and AR got some honors and stuff in this Chicago magazine and Chicago Tribune. And people recognize me now in the industry. And it's really cool.

00:46:26.880 --> 00:46:32.010
And it's not just for the cause below again, all your foods awesome. Like we

00:46:32.280 --> 00:46:36.210
and you got your pizza in the hands of Kenji, which is no small feat either.

00:46:34.199 --> 00:46:36.210

00:46:36.210 --> 00:47:11.969
Yeah, that was the heat. Yeah, he was doing his story, or his. He's working on a recipe for Cameron style pizza and he did a little tour and I got in the comments said you got to try mine and his friend that he was coming with, heard my story or he saw me because I did a collaboration somebody knows and all sudden I get a DM he's like, Hey, can you have your pizza ready for us? I'm like, Wait, are you serious? And so I ended up either making them feel make it work, right? Yeah, I made I was even town I was in North Carolina visiting my fiance's family. And I was like, they were like it will be there in three days. Like okay, cool.

00:47:09.329 --> 00:47:14.400
I called a friend like hey, I need to FaceTime you and let me let me walk you through dough.

00:47:14.400 --> 00:47:18.090
Any dough in the fridge ASAP.

00:47:14.400 --> 00:47:26.940
But yeah, it made Kenji my Tamron style pizza. I also made the trip and Billy and yeah, he, he posted about it the next day.

00:47:21.840 --> 00:47:46.440
He loved it. And now he used he used he reached out to me a couple times after for more help with his article like with I connected with a butcher, Rob Levitt, who does. He's a butcher of Republican quality meats here in Chicago. He you know, he needed some sausage, and I got a packet there. So like, yeah, it was, it was cool, because like, I mean, I read the food lab and you know, I can do with somebody I looked up to in the food world for a long time.

00:47:46.619 --> 00:47:53.280
It's fantastic. I mean, you know, I can't imagine getting any of my food in front of Kenji. It

00:47:53.280 --> 00:48:00.239
was crazy. It was there's been so many surreal moments in the past few years.

00:47:55.889 --> 00:48:01.139
It's just like, It's wild. Just Everything's changed.

00:48:02.159 --> 00:48:04.920
I have a question.

00:48:02.159 --> 00:48:10.619
tavern, tavern pizza. So I grew up in Massachusetts, and we have something there called bar pizza. Is it similar? Like is it the same pizza do you know a

00:48:10.619 --> 00:49:13.829
little bit different, I mean, I've made both I love actually love Southshore bar pie before. So tavern style pizza is a low lower hydration tells me there's not a lot of water and it's a dry dough, it's gonna be crackery and texture. The difference between bar pie bar pie has a little bit more hydration, but it's bar pies are baked in pans initially, and then popped out and like crisps on the bottom. That's the main difference. And then you have like the cheesy the cheesy, the kind of lace the edges, they both serve the same purpose for you know, you be in a bar and just to go great with a beer and you know, our Chicago pizza is cut into what's called party cutter, square cut party cut right squares. So it can kind of people can have it in larger, you know, larger groups can share it and you can have a beer with it. And so there's they're similar in that regard. But the textures and everything are just different because it's, you know, there's more. There's more, I think I'd say that it's like bar pies a little richer than a garden style tavern style is more just like crisp. It's really just like, oh, feels like a cracker. You know?

00:49:14.250 --> 00:49:24.360
Okay. Yeah, I you know, I saw that on your Instagram. I don't know that I've ever had that. But just knowing like South Shore Bar.

00:49:20.400 --> 00:49:27.000
Bar pie is something that, you know, we have as a specialty.

00:49:24.360 --> 00:49:36.239
I'm not in Massachusetts anymore. But I have a friend who makes pizzas and has a YouTube and he has his recipe on there.

00:49:31.050 --> 00:49:37.320
So I use Tim's recipe for social bar pie. Is

00:49:37.320 --> 00:49:41.099
it? Well, who's which Tim? Is it kitchen craft?

00:49:41.250 --> 00:49:42.150
Kitchen craft?

00:49:41.250 --> 00:49:42.150

00:49:42.210 --> 00:49:45.809
he's awesome. I five fall in my youth. That's I use his bar pie recipe.

00:49:46.469 --> 00:49:48.840
I'm in Maryland.

00:49:46.469 --> 00:50:01.889
He's in Richmond, Virginia. And actually the very first time I ever went down to Richmond, I went to the place that he was the chef at and hung out with him. So he's someone who I met through the early days of Twitter and just have stayed in touch contact with him. So, you know seems

00:50:02.429 --> 00:50:05.849
I've never talked to him I learned a lot from him. A really great guy

00:50:05.849 --> 00:50:21.059
and great chef, and then he really leaned into pizza and stuff, you know, and he's got this successful YouTube channel. And so, you know, I, I'm friends with him on Facebook so years ago when he posted that recipe, so I was like, I'm gonna make this so I've practiced that particular recipe at my house.

00:50:21.300 --> 00:50:31.710
And I like his sauce recipe with caraway, not caraway, fennel seed, and it is like a fennel seed in his sauce. I'm like, Yeah, this is right on. So I like him.

00:50:31.710 --> 00:50:55.829
I like him a lot. He makes everything really approachable. That's one thing like, I take in a lot of food content. And I think a lot of it right now is is my hot take for our podcasts? Like there's a lot of junk out there. A lot of noise. I know 100% 100% I can't I honestly dislike probably 95% of food media. I see. I just I want to learn I want to like I yeah, I'm there to be like, somewhat entertained by black

00:50:55.829 --> 00:51:05.789
vinyl gloves, slap the meat and make it jiggle. And then all the ASMR like I'm gonna scrape my knife across this grilled cheese sandwich and let you hear how crispy the sandwiches right?

00:51:05.820 --> 00:51:20.340
I'm gonna I'm gonna rip my beard out there. Everything's sloppy. It's just it's yeah, there's innuendos which make no sense. It's gross to me. Like, slide the slide of the meat things weird. The dudes that just like make sandwiches and slam things. Everything's slammed and messy like that.

00:51:21.030 --> 00:51:55.679
That's not good. And you I'm sorry, I'm such a hater. When it comes to that. I just I turned into an old man where I just don't like I don't like that, like, yeah, I make my I make food content. I've kinda like I've used social media as a way to kind of like, use this as an extension to bring eyes and ears to want to be like, the more cookie for example, that recipe goes viral. And people see that, but then they like click on another post of mine, they'll they see my link post of my story. Like Wait, oh, wait, there's this is just not just like a random person making a more cookie. There's more to this here. But

00:51:55.679 --> 00:52:10.800
it also wasn't an obnoxious style of like, the jump cuts and a lot of screaming and all that stuff. So annoying to kind of have a sensational or kind of, you know, because I have some of those recipes too.

00:52:07.800 --> 00:52:21.809
Like I love scrapple you know, and that's one of the divisive things here. And it's like I have all these scrambled recipes and I make a sloppy sandwich with like scrapple and kimchi and blue cheese. And you know, it's like one of those things.

00:52:19.170 --> 00:52:24.329
It's delicious. But I do know that people are going to love it, hate it and talk about it.

00:52:24.329 --> 00:52:29.699
But I'm not like in your face screaming like squeezing it watching all the blue cheese ooze out.

00:52:30.900 --> 00:53:30.960
It's not my style. No, that's not my style, either. I just like I think like, you know, with the food that I create, I don't. I'm not reinventing the wheel. But I think what I do is I tell stories through my food, or my foods inspired by sports, for example. A lot of it's inspired by sports, I will make reference to things like I created this series called Chicago squares where every week I made a Chicago tavern style pizza inspired by whoever the bears were playing. And I made 17 different pizzas to go with the season and they were pizzas ranged from everything from having a jumble I have pizza to surf and turf with lobster to you know, Chicago hot dog Coney dogs, like I've done all sorts of like pizzas inspired by dishes and cities, you know, popular cuisines or dishes. But like, there's, there's something to it, you know, it's not just, I just I made the viral Fetta fried egg that everybody makes like, I don't know, you'll never see me make a like trying to make one of the copied viral recipes, or is this there's Smashburger taco everybody's made like I just,

00:53:31.050 --> 00:54:12.449
I just think there's so many actual, like, other recipes, I want to try, like a tried and true recipe or something. I really like ratcheting down my skills on something. To me that's more important, like getting incrementally better. I was talking about this with a guest a couple of weeks ago, you know, like Thomas Keller, like the way that he cooks fish, right? Like he's just like digging in and like nobody's cooking a better piece of fish. Like, to me that's more interesting than just like, why do we care about like throwing a chunk of Fetta in a casserole dish with some pasta and throwing it in the oven? Like, I don't know. And then doing it because like 20,000 other people are doing it? Like, I don't know, it's just not interesting to me.

00:54:12.630 --> 00:55:08.070
No, that's never been my thing, honestly. And I think that goes to like even like what I'm doing in general with my with my cars and my food, like my philosophies and all this is I'm just I'm being myself, I will be unapologetically me and be genuine. And you know, I'm going to do things that I like it when I was a producer and I tell anybody that works in a creative industry. It's like, I never I never pandered to like our audience. I never use songs or music that I thought they would enjoy what it was I thought like, Okay, I trust my creative process. I trust my tastes and things. If this tells my story, how I wanted to do it, and I'm proud of what this comes out how this audio piece or whatever comes out. I'm confident enough that people will enjoy it. Because I know I felt like this is good and I trust my skin As I do the same thing with food and social media and the way I kind of handle everything, it's like I'm never I don't. I don't make things.

00:55:08.340 --> 00:55:17.460
I'm not trying to make things to just to pander to people. I'm never going to make viral recipes. I'm not going to use the same song you ever see i dosha cat or whatever, right?

00:55:17.489 --> 00:55:20.820
Yeah, I've already uses her she heard she just basically became paint

00:55:20.820 --> 00:55:24.599
the town red song that every every video for like three months,

00:55:24.659 --> 00:55:32.550
every all of that they're all the same. And I was always like, Wait, does anybody actually like listen to her outside of like, a five second video.

00:55:33.119 --> 00:55:54.119
I feel like general consensus and best practices are basically have been telling us for the past couple of years that like, you should follow a trend and not create your own thing. And that the fastest path to success is do the same thing that everyone else is doing with maybe a minor twist, instead of just being like, completely unique. At least that's how I interpret it.

00:55:54.179 --> 00:56:23.519
That's what I well, I know, I'm very familiar with that. But I tell you what now like as a person who started I mean, I've had, I've had Instagram since probably the start in 2012, or whatever it was, like early days. And you know, when I started when I got my diagnosis, and when I said I wanted to actually start doing the tripping Billy, at that point, I had, I think 88 followers, I didn't have a following. I never, I never cared about likes, I never took selfies or put myself on there.

00:56:20.159 --> 00:57:33.449
I never did videos, me speaking, I needed to do that to get eyes and ears on what I'm doing. And so I started putting myself out there more and then a couple months into it, I realized that like, okay, you know, I should showcase my personality. And so I started being on camera more, and I would you know, voice things eventually and, and put a face to it. And people under like, got my personality, but like, I never use trending audio, I literally forge my own path. I would just have fun with silly things like Photoshop my dog on things, I do those videos where you can add heads to the videos and superimpose people in there. And I would just always joke around and have fun with it. But like I knew, I knew I was taking the long way and the long road and I had no problem with taking the long road because I figured people are gonna get to know me, I'll build more of an organic following because like, yeah, I can have a viral video that I have a million views tomorrow, and a bunch of people around the world see it, but then they have no connection to me. They just it all fades away. I want people to know who I am and connect with me. And I think that one thing I have is like this audience and following that I've kind of built here with my story and journey has kind of grown here.

00:57:28.619 --> 00:57:53.400
It's organic. And it there's engagement. When I put a call to action out there people respond when I do a pop up that they've been selling out. You know, it's like, every day I get these things fed into my you know, into my feed these cooking videos and of these like dudes slamming meat down and like putting in their mouth and doing whatever the hell they want to do the weird stuff with meat.

00:57:54.539 --> 00:57:57.150
And I look at their following.

00:57:54.539 --> 00:58:05.369
And it's like, does everybody have 360,000 followers? It's I always see and I looked at videos, and it's all the same.

00:58:00.510 --> 00:58:31.530
It's literally even the visual aspects of these videos before I even watch it the frame and still shot looks the same. This like the guys assault tank and these other guys that I can't stand everybody, did they do the same formula? And it's like, what's that? What's that? I don't want to be I don't want to be part of that. I'll take my long way. And I'll let my story be played out how I want it to be played out. And yeah, if it takes me longer to grow, that's fine. I don't care. It's my way I did it.

00:58:31.559 --> 00:58:55.380
Yeah. I mean, I like I enjoy, like what I do, having an engaged community, having people who I genuinely call friends, I mean, I now have a group of people who I've met strictly through, you know, creating food content and podcasts and stuff on the internet, who now I routinely can pick up the phone and give a call and sometimes, you know, they're the first ones to shoot me a text and say, Hey, happy birthday man, like, you know, before my like best friend does.

00:58:56.309 --> 00:59:19.079
And I'd rather have a smaller group like that, than have all these people and just be you know, like not engaging with them. I want to I still want to be at a point where I can respond to every DM be doing that myself not having some paid intern or something, you know, handling my communications, you know, sure, having a bigger following means a lot for you.

00:59:19.079 --> 00:59:26.070
There's a lot more opportunities, but still, you know, even if you get there, how can you continue to be engaged in your community?

00:59:26.190 --> 00:59:50.639
Yeah, you know, you don't part of me, like part of this journey for me. You know, we talked about this earlier when he said, You know, it's like, you do something, it's different when you're doing something when you have maintenance when you have I mean, main job and then this area of verse, this is all you have. And yeah, I have I have a full time job. And I have a career but you know, I want I believe my futures in food and food, something food related.

00:59:51.030 --> 01:00:15.269
And I think for me, physically, you know, I don't I don't want to own a restaurant. I don't want to work in a restaurant just because it's as many as people I get this all times that when you get over a pizzeria, you gotta have your own sandwich shop, like, we'll get investors to do it. I know I don't, it's not, it's not going to work for me physically. It's not just it's not going to be good for me. It's hard. And there's, there's so much more than just making food that goes into this.

01:00:15.269 --> 01:01:28.170
And I have an utmost respect for people that work in the restaurant industry. I've learned so much from so many great people here in Chicago, that it's almost like a slap in their face for me to say, oh, yeah, get this gold replacement be successful. No, I there's a lot more goes into it. Plus, I just don't think I want that anyway. And, but I love food, I love creating. And I think that like maybe food media, just given my experience. And I'm not, I don't mean necessarily social media, but like, I'd like to host my own cooking show one day, and bring, bring attention to the disability community and disease, you know, rare disease community and use it to like, gain a larger platform and do cool things. And again, do it my own way. I'd love to do that one day. And so what I've been trying to do is try to basically like carve out a niche for myself, maybe create some streams of revenue that maybe one day I could, you know, say I don't, I can focus and I don't have to have my day job and do a million different things, I can just kind of do this. So I've been kind of like trying to work with brands more. And I'm a brand ambassador for gozney pizza ovens. Pizza Company, I've been doing a lot of work with them now in the past year, and a lot of huge potential coming with them soon, I just did a little brand partnership with hex clad. And it's funny because

01:01:28.170 --> 01:01:30.840
I saw that just dropped like today Yeah, I just

01:01:30.840 --> 01:02:25.590
I just don't, I literally just filmed the video yesterday, just filled out really quickly and editor, click and turn it around. And you know, I got some good feedback from people that said, but what that was really well done and you know, came off pretty, you know, for your first really first kind of like, almost like ad post. It was more just like a product, you know, product, gifting product thing. But still, it was a cool way to do it, you know, cool experience to have, but, you know, to get some of these opportunities, and not to not be at 25,000 30,000 as a follower, that's a testament again to the engagement. And then like the brand sees, they obviously see something in me if they want to work with me. So the opportunities will come more when the numbers get higher, obviously, but you know, it's just takes time and you just have to figure out like, how to manage that all too because that's a whole different world.

01:02:23.369 --> 01:02:28.050
You know, I don't I don't know what I'm doing. I'm literally learning a file on the fly, we

01:02:28.110 --> 01:02:33.179
you seem to be doing a pretty good job. From the bystander point of view.

01:02:30.659 --> 01:02:33.179

01:02:33.179 --> 01:02:35.309
you, I appreciate that.

01:02:33.179 --> 01:02:57.329
I don't you know, I have to learn I have a lot to learn. I don't know, you know, I was actually just talking to Chef Art Smith actually now won't be a Name Dropper, but in Chicago, he's actually followed me, like when my story first came out, and we kind of became, I don't want to say friends acquaintances online, he just messaged me, and we would chat.

01:02:54.809 --> 01:03:08.340
We never met in person, we finally we finally connected like for like a year. And we've grabbed dinner and chatted a little bit and talk more about my story and stuff. And, you know, he's like, What do you you know, what do you want to do?

01:03:06.300 --> 01:03:48.510
And we're kind of just kind of telling kind of what I've told you already. And he's like, there's a little hesitation in your voice. I'm like, well, he's like, you're really confident person, I could tell everything you do. But it's like, there's you still have a little hesitation. I'm like, Yeah, I still have a lot to learn. I can't, I can't just, I'm learning I can't do everything on my own. I need to like, learn from people and pick brains a little bit. And so I kind of like picked his brain because I have to figure out like, I'm so fixated on it. I want to just keep you know, every year it's gotten the story has gotten bigger and has been with more people but like, my experiences have gotten more of taken at the different levels. And I just want to keep going I want to go from here to keep going up. I don't want to flatline you know, so

01:03:48.510 --> 01:03:55.769
what's so what's like the next step then like where do you have like a, like a hardcore plan or a loose plan?

01:03:55.769 --> 01:03:57.659
Like, how does this evolve?

01:03:58.230 --> 01:04:05.699
It's weird. I'm doing this all I'm also planning I'm in the process of planning wedding right now. I'm getting married, and I get married.

01:04:01.980 --> 01:04:05.699
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

01:04:05.699 --> 01:04:30.150
So, you know, that's, that's that's obviously the number one thing right now. But like, I just just launched a website finally. So I don't have I have tripping Billy So I don't have to just drive people to Instagram anymore. I can have a little hub for this and I could showcase things. It's a really beautiful, beautifully done site. My my friend's girlfriend Morgan. She did a wonderful job.

01:04:25.260 --> 01:05:10.380
She helped me design the whole thing and put together and I finally have a hub now. And so I'd like to just continue obviously bringing some eyes through social media here. I may start like maybe eventually doing some long form content on YouTube. Just to figure that's a great place to meet potentially monetize a little bit. But with that comes more more dedication and time. So you know, I don't know if that's gonna go but I'd love to write a book. I'd love to get a book out there because I think my story is obviously very unique and I have a pretty, pretty fun idea for a cook slash cookbook, a trip with a trip with Billy recipes in the craziest two years of my life.

01:05:06.900 --> 01:05:16.230
And, you know, document my my story in real time, kind of like how I told you but you get to see the accompanying recipes from some of those collaborations I did.

01:05:16.500 --> 01:05:18.869
I think that's a great idea. Yeah, I

01:05:18.869 --> 01:05:30.210
think that would be, that'd be something that I'd like to do and then see where it goes. I mean, that's what's like, nothing's, I didn't have a plan. When I started this. I didn't. I knew. I knew I was going to work hard.

01:05:30.239 --> 01:05:40.289
I've heard you talk in other interviews about manifestation now like, Do you truly mean that like, Are you like Manifesting with intent?

01:05:37.440 --> 01:05:42.510
Like, do you believe that like, really? Oh, yeah. Setting intention there.

01:05:42.719 --> 01:05:54.239
Yeah. To give you another sports example, you know, I'm not sure how big in sports you are. But I say like lately, I feel like I have like Steph Curry. Confidence. Steph Curry is a basketball player for the Golden State Warriors. You

01:05:54.239 --> 01:06:06.000
want to see him next month, my sorry, is a big basketball fan. And for Christmas, they're coming to DC playing the wizards. So Ben's big gift is I got tickets to go see Steph Curry play. Stefan

01:06:06.000 --> 01:06:53.820
curry reference and analogy I always make is like sometimes who he's so confident that he'll shoot a three and just like turn it, like take a shot and turn around. And it's crazy. And it'll go in, it's like, he just knows. And, you know, for a long time, before any of this before muscular district fee before anything, I always had ideas have not always been a creative person, but I never acted on them. I never tried. And all of a sudden, I when I had something big like this, I tried to put myself out there. And I started floating my ideas out and taking these things that I have, and just bringing them to life and all the sudden, like everything clicks, and I feel like I can throw the things I'm throwing up now or you know, not everything's gonna go in.

01:06:53.880 --> 01:07:32.639
Obviously, I'm not like arrogant or anything. But I'm confident enough that that will it will work. And if it doesn't, okay, I'll go to my next thing. I have so many ideas that, you know, it's overloaded sometimes, and I don't know how to get to all of them, because I have so many little things I want to do. And, you know, when I, when I first decided to tripping, Bailey was going them I knew, I told, you know, told Rachel, my fiance would sit down and like, I think this is I'm going to take this to the moon. I said, I don't know what that mean, I really don't. But I'm gonna I know I'm going to succeed with this.

01:07:33.539 --> 01:07:38.820
Because I will work my ass off.

01:07:33.539 --> 01:07:41.070
You know, my parents are Middle Eastern immigrants that immigrated here in seven years.

01:07:41.070 --> 01:07:53.190
And I say that I blood of immigrants in me. And I just know to work, I've been working since I was 15. I will always hustle I've worked through having a disability I make adjustments and that you know, adapt to things when I need to.

01:07:53.760 --> 01:08:34.199
But I just know I'm gonna hustle and work. And that's where even even in this position here in Chicago, it's cool. You know, getting to know the chefs and from the different restaurants I've worked with. And as time went on, you know, I'm always I'm so grateful. I tried to make sure that people always know I say thank you constantly. I'm always thanking people for helping me just give me eyes and ears. Let me do this. Give me the honor. I say that more than anything. It's an honor. You're letting me create something at your restaurant. And no, it's an ability like give yourself some flowers man, like you're you are working your butt off you work harder than anybody they do.

01:08:34.199 --> 01:08:56.159
They've joked called me the collaboration thing. I've done over 50 collaborations in two years, you know, a lot. That's all created with a full time job. You know, it's like I'm hustling. So when it goes to manifest, the manifestation is there. I truly believe that I haven't scratched the surface of what I can do. And what I want to do there's a lot of big things that I want to do that I haven't even even tried yet.

01:08:56.159 --> 01:09:43.500
Like, you know, I want to and I will one day, my big things I want to do like like the white whale things or like I'd love to I want to collaborate with the bulls. I want to have, you know, a muscular dystrophy awareness night at the United Center for Bulls game and maybe have one of my bowls themed sandwiches I on sale for sale one of the vending the vending stands where they donate a portion to the charity and like these are big things that for what the beginning I could have said like No, those are probably just like pipe dreams. They're not pipe dreams anymore. Like I've had contact with these people. And you know, I've had these ideas and I'm gonna make them work. So I don't if it takes it takes six months, takes two years takes 10 years.

01:09:44.100 --> 01:10:11.819
It'll happen. I truly believe all this will happen for me. And then only the slight when I talked about the hesitation when I was talking to Chef Art was like, like, what's your hesitation like? I have to be realistic. There is a small there's a small part of me Throughout all the confidence and you remove or move, the armor that I have my outside, it's like, I get worried like is this maybe it was just a couple years and it was just a thing.

01:10:09.060 --> 01:10:58.619
And that's all it is, maybe it doesn't turn anything more than that. That's something I always have to think about. But that's just being vulnerable. And I don't have to listen to the negative voices, I just, I'm feeling confident. And I just think that just continue to put myself in the position to succeed by connecting with the right people, working hard, being respectful along the way, and then just just being true to myself and everything else will, the story will just continue to play itself out how it needs to do it. I think my story is, as you've heard it now, I think it's unique, I think there's I mean, truly unique, I don't think anybody's ever done what I've done as a home to be a home cook, to collaborate with some of the biggest names in your city's food, especially the large city of Chicago, like Chicago, big rich foods city.

01:10:54.720 --> 01:11:31.229
And then you know, do it for a cause that's bigger than just me, and representing a whole community. And taking that pressure, putting that on my shoulders, like, I'm confident I can do these things, I want to do these things. And at the beginning, I never ate you know, I didn't know that this was I didn't have these going, I was going to have these opportunities. But now that I have them, I gotta make the most of them make this count. Because in reality, this is this disease is progressive, it will get worse. So I don't know how long I have to be as functional as I am now go for

01:11:31.229 --> 01:11:33.689
it. While you know you write it out, write write it

01:11:33.689 --> 01:12:13.140
out. And so I think my story, hopefully one day will go national, but I didn't want to push it. I wanted to happen again. Just like social media. I didn't No need to do paint town read and reach out to every single national publication and be like, Dude, look at my story, let my story know, you'll eventually find out my story, I'll lay the groundwork in my city, and, and in time with the right ways, right moves, it'll be an organic thing. And when it's ready to be told to a larger audience, it will be told to a larger audience, whether it's through this podcast and other and other forms that go on or collaborations or whatever, one day, I'd love to even do a trip and billion nationwide tour. Well,

01:12:13.140 --> 01:12:24.510
that's gonna ask you that, like, if you would consider I mean, there's so many if you just stick with pizza, like so many places, you could go and do pizza. And I probably have at least four of them. If you ever make it out this way.

01:12:24.689 --> 01:13:06.510
I would love to know that's one thing I've thought about that before. I mean, for sure. Because again, my it's not like I'm making a pepperoni pizza. I do make pepperoni pizzas, and I make my tavern styles. But like the tripping Billy tour would be the OG chip and Billy or, you know, the tripping Billy toppings and reinvented to like what I'm doing here in Chicago, but like, you know, doing it at some, some of the best places around the country, I would love to raise awareness and continue to do that raise as much money as I can for the charity. But really, I just I want to feed people in the process. I don't really ever just ask for donations, if you want to donate if you have the means to donate to my charity, and you want you'd love to, and you have the means to feel free.

01:13:06.840 --> 01:13:13.770
By all means I appreciate that you don't have to though, I'd rather just feed you or get you drunk and have a good time.

01:13:14.039 --> 01:13:55.260
That's what I want to do in this process. You know, it's a little different aspects of the charity that in fundraising that I do, it's like, let's have some fun along the way. Well, you know, let's learn it, you'll learn a little bit too, and bring some eyes to something you've probably never seen before. And we all have bad days, unfortunately, and I'm gonna have more days where I fall and shits gonna happen. But it's just a reminder that it's okay to like grieve, it's okay to hurt a little bit. But you just got to get back up and just continue on and make adjustments and hopefully learn through the process. And hope that you have more good days than bad and that's it. There's nothing else you can really do. That's

01:13:55.289 --> 01:14:35.159
inspiring. And, you know, you take so much for granted, you know, someone like me, you know, you're healthy. I think we all assume we're going to be healthy, right? That you're just going to wake up every day and, and something like that. You figure like, Oh, I got to the age of 30 without having you know, some genetic disorder or something. It's like, oh, I'm in the clear. I'm good. You know, obviously something could happen. Other health wise, but I think we don't think about how much of our life would change if something like this happen. So you never know. Yeah. Well, I think this is probably a great place to leave it. I've really enjoyed talking to you. I always tell guests, I leave everything in the show notes. So people will be able to find your stuff.

01:14:35.159 --> 01:14:51.659
I mean, you've got a pretty good following already. But I hope if our listeners don't know of you, they'll go check out your social media, check out that brand new website. Maybe. Maybe they've learned something I know. I've learned something about muscular dystrophy tonight. So yeah, thanks. Thanks for coming on and chatting with me. For

01:14:51.869 --> 01:14:54.659
me. That was awesome.

01:14:51.869 --> 01:15:00.329
Thanks for having me. And I'm going to make that cocktail by the way that we started our conversation about them Lorca Otto,

01:15:00.779 --> 01:15:45.359
you're still here, the podcasts over. If you are indeed still here, thanks for taking the time to listen to the show. I'd love to direct you to one place and that's chefs without From there, you'll be able to join our email newsletter. Get connected in our free Facebook group, and join our personal chef catering and food truck database so I can help get you more job leads. And you'll also find a link to our sponsor page where you'll find products and services I love. You pay nothing additional to use these links, but I may get a small commission which helps keep the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast and organization running. You might even get a discount for using some of these links. As always, you can reach out to me on Instagram at Chefs Without Restaurants or send me an email at chefs without Thanks so much