Neal Kokowicz is the owner of Market 22 in Maple City. Our food and drinks editor, Tim Tebeau, tells us more about the man behind the Detroit-style pizza everyone is loving.

Born to a family with a chef dad and a resort-GM mom, Neal Kokowicz went on to study business and entrepreneurship at Northwood University and then worked at The Homestead alongside chef John Piombo for nine years. Market 22, then, is something of a destiny fulfilled. The big lesson from chef Piombo: everything that comes out of the kitchen has to be done with passion. We talk pizza and that passion thing with Kokowicz.

You had some recent success at a big Michigan pizza competition.

It’s called the Pizza Challenge, and it’s sponsored by the Michigan Restaurant Association. I had to go on stage in front of 4,000 people and make our D-Town pizza, it’s our flagship pizza. And we ended up with 4th place in the state. That felt really good after having been in business just two years.

Scratch cooking sounds important to you. How does that play out at Market 22?

We have no freezer on-property. We brine, cure and roast all of our meats in house. We make our dough fresh daily. We shred whole blocks of cheese to make our own blend. We make our signature sauce, and we use only the freshest ingredients for our toppings.

What defines a Detroit-style pizza?

I think there are five things that are really distinct to a Detroit-style pizza. One, cheese from edge to edge. Two, the crust is deep dish, but it’s airy. Three, the sauce is ladled at the last point, on top. Four, the amounts of toppings are more finely balanced, there’s a lighter hand. And five, passion.

You were born to a foodie family, are they a part of Market 22?

This is a family operation. My dad, Paul, is chef. My mom, Adriene, is our chocolatier. My fiancée, Melanie Sharpe, is lead baker. She’s the one who convinced me to do pizza. I had always said I’m not doing pizza. And now that’s the thing we are getting so much attention for! It’s the big joke in our family.

Northern Michigan Food & Drink

Photo(s) by Dave Weidner