If there's any food that one could win an unlimited year's supply of without getting sick of it, it's pizza. With its ever-shifting array of toppings, it's a meal that stays fresh even if you eat it, say, three times a week for 50 consecutive weeks, like Seth Mazow has.
Mazow was the winner of the "Hands on an Eggplant Sub
" contest at Austin's hippest restaurant, Home Slice Pizza, in December 2008. In the game -- inspired by the now-defunct "Hands on a Hard Body
" endurance competition -- contestants stand with one hand in constant contact with an eggplant sub for as long as they can. The last man standing receives a free pizza, any size and with any number of toppings, every time he walks through the restaurant's doors for the following year. Mazow has taken full advantage of the deal, chronicling his adventures on his blog, Year of the Pizza
As he prepares to defend his title 50 weeks into enjoying the spoils of victory, Asylum wanted to know: What can you get from a year of free pizza, besides a little bit chubby? (For the record, Mazow is in surprisingly good shape.)
Pizza makes you cooler.
"I'm definitely cooler now than I was a year ago," Mazow told Asylum. "When you meet people, usually they ask you what you do. And everybody expects you to say, like, 'I'm a graphic designer,' or 'I'm a lawyer,' or 'I'm a barista,' and they just met five people who do what you do in the past two weeks. But I can say, 'I eat a lot of pizza,' and once I tell the story, that makes me a lot more interesting than most people they meet."
It also means that the Home Slice staff, who are some of the hipper folks in already-uber-hip Austin, recognize him as he's out and about, which doesn't hurt -- and even the prospect of being featured on Asylum paid off for Mazow. "My fiancee was really impressed," he said. "I got extra-laid last night."
Pizza gets you more friends.
A common complaint among guys is that it's hard to make new guy friends as you get older. Saying "Let's go out for a drink" to a guy you just met can feel a little awkward, but the novelty of Mazow's pizza prize means that he can ask a dude out on a man-date without it being weird.
"If you want to take a guy out to dinner, it's kind of strange," Mazow said, "But when I tell the story of how I get the pizza for free after winning the contest, everybody wants some of that." He's been able to use the prize to hang out with popular local bands and minor celebrities, too. "My favorite band in town is this group called the Lonesome Heroes
, and they were playing at a festival nearby," he explained. "They looked like your normal starving-artist types, so I told them that if they wanted to come down the block, the pizza would be on me. I couldn't have invited them over to my apartment and told them we'd order some Mr. Gatti's
, but this was cool."
Pizza gives you good karma.
You know who really likes free food? Homeless people. While Mazow didn't want to cultivate a reputation among Austin's homeless population as the go-to guy for free pizza -- "Home Slice probably wouldn't appreciate that," he said -- that hasn't stopped him from "paying pizza forward," as he puts it, and helping the occasional person in need of a bite to eat. Austin's premiere homeless celebrity, perennial mayoral candidate Leslie Cochran
, has been one recipient of Mazow's largesse.
"I just saw him on the street and introduced myself: 'Hi, my name's Seth, I get free pizza.' 'I like pizza!' We set a date, I checked if there was a dress code [Cochran, who has a dress-up doll series, is infamous as a cross-dresser], and we've gotten together a few times since."
Pizza gets you Web design, computer rentals and transportation.
Mazow, who works as a legislative aide during the Texas legislature's session, goes through cycles of unemployment. During those lean times, the pizza has done more than keep him fed -- it's also given him something to barter with.
"I wanted to build my Web site but I didn't know much about Wordpress and all of that, so I found a guy who'd help me with it in exchange for being taken out to pizza a couple times. A few weeks ago, I needed to borrow someone's computer that had Photoshop on it, so I advertised on Craigslist and found someone there."
And of course there's been beer. "I have a rule with my friends -- pizza on me, beer on you. It works out well for everybody. They get an amazing pizza and beer for the price of a couple pitchers, and I don't have to pay for either."
Pizza gives you a new identity.
"I walk into Home Slice, and I feel like Norm from 'Cheers,'" Mazow said when describing how it's affected him. "I'm pretty surprised by how much it defines me. People see me out and I'm the Pizza Guy."
This new identity has also forced him to train harder in anticipation of this year's contest: "If I lost, I guess I'd just be some guy."
To commemorate the experience -- win or lose -- he's also sought to preserve the original winning sub, which currently occupies a lot of space in his freezer. "I took it to a taxidermy place, but they said that there wasn't really anything they could do with it. I tried a University of Texas sculpture professor, and some other local artists, but they were skeptical, too. It's too expensive to get it bronzed, but I want to preserve it somehow.
"The artists told me that I should just take a pretty picture, so if I can't figure anything else out, I'm going to take it to the mall and get a Glamour Shots
photo of me with the sub. I'm well aware that this could be the most glorious thing I ever do with my life."
Read more about Mazow's adventures in free pizza on his site, Year of the Pizza.
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