“Give Pizza Chance”
Meet Josh Wylder: Professional Pizza Phenom, Composer, Performer
A few years ago, in 2020, Josh decided to make the leap back into the restaurant industry after a long hiatus.
He was living in Victoria working for a telecommunication business. Life was good, but he certainly wasn’t passionate about his work. All his life, the culinary arts and music occupied much of his love and his spare time, so when he was presented with an opportunity to make a change, he jumped on it.
This is Josh’s story, about how he left the corporate world to return to his roots: building his food trailer, “Give Pizza Chance”, making great wood-fired pizzas, and spending time writing songs and playing music on Mayne Island.
Where were you born and grew up?
I was born in Squamish, but lived all over BC, Okanagan, Prince George, and I lived in Victoria for many years before moving to Mayne Island.
I love Victoria, but it’s changed and grown. Moving to Mayne was a great change for me – love the cleaner air and the slower pace of the Island – it’s what I needed at the time.
What brought you to Mayne Island in the first place?
Just a whim. I didn't know anybody on the Island, but had spent time on other gulf islands in the past and I really wanted to be part of a smaller community of down-to-earth folks, who actually care about each other.
How long have you been on Mayne Island?
Just over 4 years now.
Are you here with a partner and family?
Well, I met the love of my life here: Jada-Lee – she works at the Bistro.
Were you trained as a chef?
Yep. After high school, I went to Okanagan University in the culinary program. It was a program where you get some classroom teaching and training, then you apprentice under a Chef in a restaurant, then go back to the university in the training kitchen for a while to continue to learn the foundations, tips and tricks, fine-tune your techniques, then back to apprentice in restaurants again. After that, I worked in a lot of kitchens.
Why do you like cooking so much?
I think, like music, cooking is another way to express myself.
To me it’s kind of like art. If an artist paints a picture, they take time to add accents, shading or textures to capture the essence to the scene – to compliment it.
I like to experiment with herbs, sauces and garnishes, balancing out the sweet, sour and savoury. It’s like a song – words have to go with the melody – it’s got to be symbiotic – it’s a Yinyang thing – it’s got to have a good balance throughout, even with all of the different textures and flavours.
You like cooking, but you weren’t cooking pizzas just before moving to Mayne. What did you do in Vic?
After working in kitchens, I went away from cooking for a while and never thought I would get back into it. I did construction, wrote songs, played some music, then I got a job with Shaw Cable and I worked there for a while.
And how did you make the leap from Shaw Cable to Pizza?
Well, I worked for Shaw for about 14 years and one day, they decided to offer some people a package to leave the company, so I took it.
The package gave me a bit of cash to invest in something. I wanted to be my own boss and I thought I could build a food cart or truck, so I started looking into what I could do, and where.
I figured a wood-fired pizza trailer would be a pretty cool, so I set my focus on that. I researched it, bought a trailer on Vancouver Island near Comox, and then I ordered the pizza oven from Italy, and I brought everything to Mayne Island to build it here.
Was it tough to build it on Mayne Island and get all the permits and get it approved by the Health Authority?
Not really. The permits and what you need to do from a food safety point of view is straight forward, so we followed the requirements and regulations and got the permits.
The challenge was more building it. I started it during COVID, and there were already delays in shipping, so it took over 3 months for the pizza oven to come from Italy…
I’m stuck on the fact that you imported a wood-fired oven from Italy – why did you need THAT specific one?
I didn’t really need THAT one, but I liked that it was a small company in Italy, and I liked the look of it, I liked that it was a good size and I could put enough pizzas in it, but I guess yeah, I wanted THAT one – Haha – I fell in love with it!
About the trailer, I bought it used and pretty much stripped it all to redesign it to be more efficient…
It’s only 6 by 12, so I looked at a lot of food trailer designs online to figure out how maximize efficiency and make sure we’re not stepping over each other in there.
That’s why I installed the pizza oven outside the trailer, over the trailer hitch so it could breathe and dissipate heat so it’s not too hot in the trailer.
Is there a particular firewood that you like to work with?
You need to have really hard wood: fruit trees, oak, arbutus.
Arbutus is the only wood you use because it burns hot and slow. It doesn’t spark and doesn’t smoke like some other woods.
Is all the wood you use from Mayne?
Yep, but it’s not like I’m hacking down trees or anything. It’s dead fall and standing dead trees that need to get felled.
So, if people have some fallen Arbutus trees on their property that they need to get rid of, they should let me know and maybe we can do a trade – haha!
That’s great, we have a nearly dead arbutus on our property that we can probably turn into a few pizzas…
So, I know you’re a musician, but what’s your biggest love, cooking or music?
I think music is more of a love, I’d say – I really enjoy it, in part because cooking is more like more of a job now, even though I love it…
I cook all day, so when I come home, I like to kick back and play some music, write songs, so cooking is not necessarily at the top of the list to relax and unwind…
You play the guitar - any other instruments?
I may dabble with the sitar a bit, the harmonica, and I can play bass, but I focus mostly on guitar, singing and song-writing.
Do you play with a band?
I don’t, but I’ll be in the studio recording some songs to music next month, right here on Mayne Island.
I’m planning to release those on Spotify and then maybe produce a hard copy EP and maybe a few CDs, if anybody plays those anymore!
I’ve written a lot of songs. I’ve written enough for about 4 albums over the years, and I’ve always wanted to release them.
How would you describe your music style or genre?
I can write a little bit of everything… I’ve done some rock, blues, reggae and folk. Lately, I’ve been reverting to a Gypsy-jazz sorta feel.
Ok, let’s get back to your pizza business and its name, “Give Pizza Chance.” It’s a great name for a great pizza place. Was that your own brainchild?
I need to give the credit to John Lennon for the name and I will leave it at that.
Are you a big John Lennon fan?
I am definitely a fan of the Beatles and John Lennon – their material drives a lot of inspiration in some of my song-writing for sure.
You name your pizza creations after bands or a singer-songwriters, and you always seem to match the flavours and the vibes perfectly well. How do you do that?
It’s kind of like when I’m relaxing or something, and going about my day, and it almost feels like it’s a bird comes to my window and goes tweet-tweet.
Somehow it goes in my head at the weirdest time… just like song-writing, you never know when it’s going to hit you, but it comes to me just like that.
Sometimes, I reinvent a previous special. I’ve probably reinvented the “Red Hot Chili Pepper” 3 times and it’s been different every time!
You keep adding menu options. Do you think your ideas will one day outgrow your pizza trailer, or is this sufficient for you?
Well, I think you never know where life will take you, I definitely want to keep the pizza trailer going for sure because every town or small Island needs great pizza, right, so that’s important.
But whether or not I open up a restaurant in the future is up to the opportunity at the time. I guess, but I’m not searching for that right now.
Sunny Mayne Bakery Café also makes pizza…
Yeah, we’re good friends and we’ve build up a good relationship where I can run to them and say “hey, can I borrow a cup of sugar off you?”, or whatever…
I’m happy to say that I eat at their café, and they eat my pizzas too…
Even if we both sell pizza, we don’t compete really, right? It’s a different kind of pizza and we don’t really compete for the same meal crowd.
I think for most restaurant operators on Mayne Island, we all see each other as collaborators, not competitors…
What’s the best part of running a small food trailer on Mayne Island?
I love the fact that I put all the effort into it, and it’s cool to see that people are digging my recipes and seeing the business grow.
I make almost everything from scratch with quality ingredients, so I’m confident with the quality of the product I produce.
Anyone can buy pizza dough and dump a can of pizza sauce on it and call it a pizza, but I put my soul into this and need it to be the highest quality.
And people come back, they give us great feedback, word of mouth and our reviews are pretty solid, so I like seeing that a lot – it’s gratifying.
Having the support of the community and getting to know people is really nice – I really love that about running this pizza trailer.
And what’s the most challenging part?
I guess the challenge is dealing with the seasonality of living on a small quaint island. So, knowing that, I’ve got to prepare a little more for the leaner months.
Besides that, when you run out of something, a specialty ingredient that you can’t get here, well, you can’t just go to the store and pick it up, so planning and thinking ahead is pretty important.
I’ve set up my suppliers so that I don’t have to go to Victoria for ingredients and provisions every week. I buy a lot on the Island, and I’ve sourced out other specialty items that providers can deliver to Mayne Island.
Oh and the good people of Mayne Island will sometimes bring me back something in a pinch… People are always eager and willing to help – I love it!
Any closing final closing comments or message you want to share with Mayne Islanders?
I really appreciate the support from the community and the opportunity to make thin-crust wood fired pizzas for Mayne Islanders…
We’ve built up a nice clientele and I hope to continue to offer quality meals that will go a bit beyond pizzas, like the tacos, paninis and salads we offered for a while, and now some pasta options, so come back and visit and try those out – haha!
Click on the video below to see Josh in action...