Home cook, baker and pizza maker Billy Zureikat (@therealbillyz) is here to share his story of how a life-changing diagnosis and love for pizza making turned into a movement.
After a diagnosis of Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy, a form of muscular dystrophy that affects the legs, at the age of 38, Zureikat lost the ability to do something he loved: play sports. In need of something to keep himself busy, he turned to the kitchen.
“I needed something new,” he said. “I had always loved cooking to the point where I didn’t need recipes anymore. I needed a distraction, and I always wanted to be a baker, specializing in bread and pizza.”
A Chicago native, Zureikat started his pizza journey by collaborating with Logan Square’s Paulie
Gee’s (@pauliegeeslogansquare) on Tripping Billy, a Detroit-style pizza made with a shishito pepper cream sauce, corn, pickled jalapenos, cheddar, mozzarella, scallions and roasted shishito peppers baked in LloydPans’ Detroit-Style Pizza Pan.
“I named it the Tripping Billy because I trip or fall a lot. I tried to give the name some power,” Zureikat said. “It’s a very heavy pizza, but it worked.”
Tripping Billy made its debut at the Slice Out Hunger event, where Zureikat tried it out for the first time in a commercial kitchen and not at home. The balanced taste of the vegetarian pie was a hit, and it was the only pizza that sold out at the event. Paulie Gee’s asked him to include Tripping Billy on the menu as a special and showed him how to bake it with LloydPans.
Every sale of Tripping Billy gives $2 back to the Muscular Dystrophy Association (@mdaorg), and Zureikat’s own pizza fundraisers are booming. He sold 150 pizzas in November alone and raised over $8,000 for the MDA since then. Now, Tripping Billy and version 2.0 (a different iteration with no corn and Sicilian-style) is traveling through the Chicago 22 Tour, making stops @nachosandlager, @tabledonkeystick, @piecechicago, @coalfirechicago, @zazaspizza — and more locations are being added.
“I saw an opportunity, and this is my chance. I never cared about a social media following before, but now there’s a cause,” Zureikat said. “My voice has power; the Muscular Dystrophy Association, who didn’t know me at all, all of a sudden they’re tagging me. Without that pizza, this wouldn’t be a thing. You can still reinvent yourself and do great things — even creating pizza for a cause.”