Best of Phoenix

Best of Phoenix 2019: Myke Olsen of Myke's Pizza

Getting fired as an accountant changed Myke Olsen's life.
Getting fired as an accountant changed Myke Olsen's life. Jim Louvau
In honor of the theme of our 2019 Best of Phoenix, "Create Your Phoenix," we are spotlighting people who are innovating in their respective fields, helping our community to evolve in ways that we can all appreciate.

Myke Olsen dreamed of opening a pizzeria.

“It’s a cliché to say so, I know,” the owner of Myke’s Pizza admits. “But getting fired from my accounting job was one of the best things that ever happened to me.”

Olsen had been unhappy counting beans, but he loved pizza. He’d been hosting monthly pizza parties with his friend Jared Allen, founder of beloved bakery Proof Bread, for a couple of years. “I started to notice that my friends really liked the combinations I was creating,” he says of his amateur pies. “I started to think maybe I could do this.”

In 2016, Olsen went to work with Allen at American Way Market in Chandler, and six months later was hosting what he calls “a pizza pop-up” at Mesa’s Sweet Cakes Cafe. Earlier this year, that pop-up morphed into Myke’s Pizza, co-owned with Manoly Kladovasilakis and located in the east Valley craft cidery known as Cider Corps.

“As a kid, I liked baking, because then I didn’t have to wait for someone to make cookies for me,” Olsen says with a laugh. That early interest in sweets led to Olsen trying out artisan breads, he says. “Bread is a close cousin to pizza, and once I got the crust perfected, I started really working on doing something different on top.”

click to enlarge Olsen’s signature dish — the potato-and-bacon pizza. - JACKIE MERCANDETTI
Olsen’s signature dish — the potato-and-bacon pizza.
Jackie Mercandetti
Olsen’s signature dish is a potato-and-bacon pie, a white pizza smeared with mozzarella garlic cream. “We use a cubed bacon on top of that, and then finish it with a five-year aged Gouda and some rosemary.”

He admits to occasionally tossing in an oddball ingredient, just to make his pizzas special. “We have a salami pizza that’s really popular,” he says. “It’s got crushed tomato, mozzarella, salami, and then we throw on some spicy honey that just ties everything together real nice.”

Right now, Olsen says, he’s trying out different themes for Myke’s Pizza. “Do we want to offer a mix of artisan style and East Coast flavors,” he asks, “or a pizza place that’s more seasonally driven?” While he decides, east Valley folks are crowding the door at Myke’s Pizza.

Five Things That Make for a Great Pizza

By Myke Olsen

1. The most important thing is you have to care about what you’re making. I ordered a pizza at a place in Utah last summer. It sounded great on the menu, but it came out with no color or crispness. It tasted awful, because it was made by someone who didn’t care.

2.  Using quality ingredients goes a long way, and the way to do that is to build relationships with vendors and the people who are making good food here locally.

3. Make it your own. The cool thing about pizza is there are so many ways to individualize it. I always say, make a pizza that’s a reflection of your personality.

4. Use one ingredient that really puts your stamp on it — like how we use Gouda as a finishing cheese. Most people use Parmigiano.

5. Sharing a pizza with someone important to you is a good thing. And sharing pizza with a whole bunch of important people means grabbing more than one pie and getting to try different slices!
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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela