It is an early September afternoon at Creekside and even though the popular Creekbread pizzaria is closed customers keep coming in.
"We'll be opening at four o'clock," says kitchen manager Martin Broza to the first couple that comes in looking for mid-afternoon sustenance.
Not long after a family comes in hoping to order some pizza. Broza smiles and tells them they are welcome to come back at 4 p.m. Over the span of just over half an hour about eight eager clients drop in just to be politely informed of the restaurant's approaching opening time.
This steady stream of hopeful pizza fans makes interviewing Broza interesting, not unlike the story of how he came to Whistler.
Broza, who is most often found creating the pizzas the resort has grown to love, came to Whistler from the Czech Republic via Ireland, New Zealand and Spain. He studied hotel and catering management then met up with a friend in Ireland and washed dishes until he landed a job at a big pizza take-out place.
"I've got a bakery background because my parents are owners of a bakery," says Broza. "They started it 22 years ago so I pretty much grew up with the dough."
He didn't have full command of the English language when he finished school but he knew enough to get by.
"I moved into a house full of Irish people and they taught me how to speak, which was the biggest and best lesson I could ever get," he says with an accent that is impossible to nail down.
After four years in Ireland, then stints over another four years at wine bars and restaurants in New Zealand and Spain Broza thought it was time to help with the family bakery. There was just one problem: The travel bug was still coursing through his blood. So a year after joining his parents in the bakery Broza packed his stuff again destined this time for Whistler. The draw, says Broza, was the mountains.
Soon after he arrived in the resort he discovered Creekbread.
"As soon as I stepped in the first time I was like, 'This is the place I want to work. No matter what, you guys keep kicking me out I'll be coming back in again, again, again until you hire me.' And they did," says Broza.
He picked up a few shifts at first then he got regular hours and worked his way up to kitchen manager.
"I originally came for one year and I got trapped," says Broza with a laugh.
He may use the word "trapped" but the smile on his face makes it clear that there is no where else he would rather be for now. Broza explains that he never gets bored in and the Sea to Sky corridor. He loves to ski and kite surf and there's a good chance that one day he'll add climbing to his list of recreational activities because his girlfriend is a climber.
He has talked about leaving Whistler three times but the pizza, the skiing and the kite surfing have kept him from packing up and now he's currently working to get Canadian residency.
So for now, he'll keep making pizza in his wood-fired stone oven.
"You need to keep it constant," Broza says of the oven used to cook the Creekbread pizzas. "The stones and the air, they need to be balanced because if the air is too hot you're going to burn your pizza from the top. If the stones are too hot you're going to burn it from the bottom."
Broza starts his workday by splitting enough firewood to keep the pizza oven hot through the evening.
"You can not beat an open fire," he says.
The magic begins as the fresh ingredients come together then go into the stone oven.
But it isn't always all about the food as Broza proudly welcomes community groups in on Tuesdays to hold fundraising events at the restaurant.
"These people need us the same way as we need them," says Broza of the community fundraising opportunities Creekbread offers.
"We want them to come over here, have nice food, chill out and have fun as much as we want them to come over here and do something for people around (here) or even people abroad."
He says when there are no tourists the key is to take care of the people who live here — people like all those folks who popped in earlier and discovered Creekbread opens at 4 p.m.
Italian Margarita with fresh rocket (arugula) and shaved parmesan cheese
350g pizza dough
3oz tomato sauce
140g whole milk mozzarella
handful of fresh rocket (arugula)
40g shaved parmesan
extra virgin olive oil
Stretch the dough to desired size, place tomato sauce in the middle and by doing circles with ladle spread the sauce all over the dough. Place mozzarella all over the pizza and sprinkle with oregano and marjoram. Bake in pre-heated oven at 300°C until the edges are golden. Once baked and sliced spread the fresh rocket all over the pizza and decorate with shaved parmesan. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
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