Founders Rick and Elise Wetzel chose University Center as the site of their first Blaze Pizza in 2012.

Blazing-fast pizza

by Craig Reem

In the world of pizza, think extra-large.

That’s what Blaze Pizza founders Elise and Rick Wetzel did in 2012 when they pioneered a blazing-fast way to cook pizza – right here in Irvine.

“Fast fire’d,” they called it, and it revolutionized the industry. Suddenly a customer could walk in, order a pizza and start eating it three minutes later.

One of Blaze’s first investors was NBA superstar LeBron James, who helped make it the “fastest-growing restaurant chain ever,” according to Forbes magazine. (A video of James working the counter of a Blaze Pizza as team member “Ron” went viral in 2016 with more than 2.5 million views on YouTube.)

Since 2012, Blaze has grown from one restaurant in University Center to 340 restaurants in six countries. Its newest restaurant will open this spring in Walnut Village Center.

“Blaze is a build-your-own concept, created to change the way people think about and eat pizza,” says Blaze CEO Mandy Shaw. “We have taken pizza back to its roots with scratch-made dough and real ingredients that are cooked by fire.”

A 2019 Market Force Information consumer study ranked Blaze Pizza as America’s favorite quick-service pizza chain, an indication of a strong loyalty factor.

Orange County Register readers agree. Last year, they voted Blaze the No. 1 pizza shop in Orange County.