Chris Decker’s memories of pizza linger like a first kiss.
“I remember my dad making it. Every Friday, he would always make pizza at the house,” the New York native says pensively. “I played sports in high school, so after every basketball game we’d go and have pizza. That was the thing.”
That love for family, friendship and community is what fuels Decker’s work.
Now 42, Decker is a chef, manager and partner at Las Vegas’ Metro Pizza and Lulu’s Bread and Breakfast. He’s worked his way up since starting at Metro 20 years ago. He’s seen generations of post-game victory parties at the restaurant’s various locations. Children he’d let play with the dough on the restaurant countertop are now bringing their kids in. And he’s still hands-on. “I roll the dough and I stretch it. I top it. I bake it. I cut it. Then I give it to you, and then you smile,” he says. “To me, that’s everything.”
While 20 years of rolling dough could get as stale as a two-day-old slice of Domino’s, Decker still finds excitement in his craft. “To try to be consistent and still be on your game and reinvent yourself every day and keep it interesting—that’s what keeps me going,” he says.
Decker is known locally for his inventive creations, which he’s putting on display—and to the test—this week during the International Pizza Expo. Taking place in Las Vegas now through March 30, Decker will participate in the expo’s pan competition. He’ll give Vegas Seven’s followers a behind-the-scenes look at the global gathering on Tuesday, March 28 when he takes over our Instagram account. (Chef Vincent Rotolo of Evel Pie takes over the account March 30.)
As pizza makers from all over the world convene at the expo, they’re going to discover that Decker is one of the city’s best kept secrets. His inventive streak has earned him a loyal following in Las Vegas’ foodie community, thanks in part to his mouthwatering Instagram page (we named him the Best Foodie to Follow in our 2016 Best of the City). There, you’ll see his wildly imaginative pies. There’s one he dubbed the “Lake Minnetonka,” a tribute to Prince that features sausage, baked purple sweet potato, asparagus and fried kale. His “Diavolo” features a spicy tomato sauce, fried calamari and shrimp. Another one of his creations features a ring of grilled steak with an egg in the center atop panko-crusted dough. His crown jewel was a simple yet glorious pizza with ravioli on top.
To Decker, making pizza is an art.
“That’s the great thing about pizza—it’s an edible canvas,” Decker says. “I’ll put anything on a pizza … I just try to keep it interesting. I would get bored doing the same thing every day. That’s why I’m always like: How can I outdo it? How can I make it better?”
Though he’s always trying to one-up himself, he isn’t an ego-driven chef. He’s part of a larger Las Vegas pizza community who share recipes and secrets, hang out and praise each other. “Everybody wants to help each other, and I think that over the past couple of years, that’s really come alive here,” he says.
It all comes back to community and kinship.
“My approach for everything is: just spread love, man,” he says. “There is too much hate in the world, so I always try to end it with pizza.”