New pizza eatery prepares to ‘Blaze’ a trail in Encinitas


The hot Southern California sun isn’t the only thing firing up Encinitas residents this fall. Blaze Pizza, a fast-growing national chain of high-quality pizza, opened up shop earlier this month on El Camino Real.

The eatery is being hailed as a second coming for pizza lovers hungry for its much-buzzed-about menu, which features custom pizzas “fast-fired” for just 180 seconds — resulting in a thin, crispy crust.

“I’ve been in the food business for 15 years,” explained Jeff Baker, the owner and operator of the Encinitas location. “When I first came across Blaze in 2012, I instantly fell in love with the product. It was the best pizza I ever had. Plus, the whole energy and vibe of the place is something that made me want to be a part of it.”

From there, Baker and his team set out to open a location in Encinitas.

“We found our site next to the Native Foods Cafe,” Baker said. “We thought Encinitas would be a great place to put a Blaze because it caters to people’s needs, much like the Cafe (which is vegan). People here care about what they eat; they love good food and good energy.”

The Blaze spot in Encinitas is just the latest in a chain that Baker said is opening a new franchise “every four days.” Not bad for a company whose first location was in Irvine in 2012. Blaze has 34 locations nationwide, from big pizza towns such as Chicago and New York City, to far-flung, pizza-hungry spots like North Carolina, Florida, and South Dakota.

The wild growth of Blaze has a lot to do with its main chef, Executive Chef Bradford Kent (who’s known playfully on Blaze’s website as “The Pizza Whisperer.”) Kent, who’s also the owner of Los Angeles Olio Pizzeria & Café, has been noted by Zagat for his pizza creations, which were prominently featured on their “10 Pies Worth a Trip” list in 2013.

According to Baker, it’s Kent’s Zagat pedigree that sets Blaze apart: “We’ve taken the convenience of a quick-service restaurant and the art of fine dining and sandwiched them together.”

It also doesn’t hurt that Blaze has the backing of several high-profile investors, including basketball superstar Lebron James, former NBC news correspondent Maria Shriver, and Red Sox co-owner Tom Werner.

Baker said he and his team couldn’t be more excited to be in Encinitas and are looking forward to giving back to the community as well.

“Blaze tries to get into the fabric of the towns we are in,” Baker said. “We like to do a ton of fundraisers, where we’ll donate 20 percent of a night’s revenue to a school, team, or organization. We already have some scheduled.”

Overall, Baker is looking forward to Blaze’s future in Encinitas, and to grow even more. Especially since Blaze makes his all-time favorite pizza: the Green Stripe. “It’s pesto, chicken, roasted red peppers, garlic, mozzarella, and arugula. I like it because you can eat it for lunch, and it won’t weigh you down for the rest of the day.”

For more on Blaze Pizza, visit Address: 127 N. El Camino Real. Encinitas, 92024; (760) 452-2500.