My dad died when I was very young. My mom started working 80 hours a week, and my older brother became the father. If the toilet was broken, he fixed it. I became the cook. My mom would call me from work and say, “Joe Bo, we’re having chicken tonight. So you need to set the oven to 350. . . .” At age 7, I was baking chicken. I loved that when my mom came home from work, tired and hungry, I had a plate waiting for her.
When I started at Domino’s, I just wanted to be somewhere where I could cook and be paid for it. Food is the greatest application of chemistry there is. The kitchen is just one giant lab. In the end, to find out if your experiment worked, just pop it in your mouth. I am constantly eating, constantly moving. My heart rate never slows down. I breathe like my dogs, panting more than breathing. My mind doesn’t slow down. Like right now, I’m thinking about atomic theory and physical matter.
I’m the most competitive guy you’ll ever meet. I can thank my brother for that. For 12 years straight, he beat me up 365 days a year, Christmas, Easter, didn’t matter. I never backed down, always fought back.
My first two managers were both back-to-back World’s Fastest Pizza Maker winners. That’s how I learned to make a pizza: fast. I started challenging myself to get faster every time, without making an ugly pizza. My fastest time for three pizzas is 38.4 seconds. But this one guy I used to work with — I legitimately can’t stand the guy — would always make a faster pizza. Mine looked better, but he was faster. I couldn’t live with knowing this jerk was better than me. When I found out he was in this year’s competition, I had to enter. At our first practice, he was there. I went first and was not happy with my performance. I still beat him. After that, I knew I could represent at the competition.
In Vegas, I could not calm down. I tried to take a swim. Tried calling my wife. Tried drinking lots of coffee hoping I’d crash. Nothing worked until I got on stage in the second round, looked out in the audience and saw my D.C. team. The most conservative guy I know was sitting there in this huge rainbow wig, screaming for me. I immediately calmed down. I didn’t make it to Round 3, but now I know I can come back and keep fighting, keep getting better.
My goal is to open a Domino’s in my mom’s neighborhood in Annapolis. She can’t get it delivered, and she won’t eat any other pizza. Every week, I scan the paper and drive around looking for “For Lease” signs. That would be awesome, to have my mom open the door and have a pizza Joe Bo made waiting for her.