All the Right Ingredients:  An Interview with Pizza Chef and Founder of Project Lighthouse Steve Traynor

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By Denise Marsh

Who is Steve Traynor?  If you have ever had one of his mouth-watering pizzas at Village Music’s Trivia Night, then you know they cannot be beat!  But, there’s more than just the “toppings” with this guy!  Let’s dig right in …

AW:   Who inspired you to cook?

ST:My family has always been sort of a “foodie” family.  In high school I worked as a dishwasher at a French restaurant near my home.  I worked my way up to prep, then desserts and appetizers.  I learned a lot.  I guess you could say that’s where I first learned to really cook.  Before that I sort of experimented in the kitchen.   The restaurant gave me a good foundation to keep learning.

AW:  How did you get involved with the Pizza business (one of my favorite foods, being a New Yorker)?

ST:  I love pizza.  It’s really a universal force for good (LOL!)  I first got started with the pizza oven.  I found a startup company called “UUNI” on Kickstarter and they were selling pizza ovens for the home, and it was affordable.  I dabbled with that a bit, but really got serious during the pandemic.  With no place to go, and a shortage of bread, I started making my own and started working on the pizza skills.  As I started getting better and better at it, it seemed that this might become something that I could do for a hobby.  I made pizza for a friend of mine over at the Polo club and he convinced me that there was a business model in there somewhere.  The entire pizza restaurant is portable, so a popup was a perfect fit.  We then started thinking where we could do the initial popup, and Village Music came to mind.  They weren’t open on Mondays, so this was a great way to drive additional revenue for them and for me to sell pizza.  That’s also when I started to tie the pizza names into a music theme.  It was fun to get creative and run with it.  From there, the rest is history.

AW:  Do you cater private events or have your own restaurant?

ST: I don’t have a brick and mortar, and probably never will.  I believe that the key to the business is the ability to move around to different venues.  The freedom that the smaller, lighter oven gives me allows me to setup and break down quickly.  I do plan on catering in the future, but I must get the trailer built and hire some additional people.  Right now, I am my own bottleneck with my regular job.

AW: Is cooking something you take very seriously or more of a hobby?

 ST: I take it very seriously.  I am always trying to learn more.  I believe that the more we keep learning, the happier we are.  There is always something new to learn that helps you get better at something.  This constant growth is what keeps me happy.  I don’t think I would ever want to stop learning.

 AW: Are there any future plans for opening up a pizza place? Perhaps…a place that serves by the slice?  Okay. I will stop with the hints. One can dream!

ST:  LOL!  Not for now.  I like the small 12” pizza format.  I am considering how to turn some of them into calzones however.  The Brick and Mortar concept seems risky today with the way rent is skyrocketing.  I would like to prep and serve at several locations per day a few days a week with a small, dedicated crew. 

AW:  I understand that you are very passionate about another project you have initiated that will enrich the lives of Wellington residents as well as its surrounding areas.  Can you please tell us more about Project Lighthouse ?

ST:  Project Lighthouse is an amazing group of dedicated and talented people.  I have learned so much about the performing arts and the tremendous talent we have in our own Village.  We believe that a performing arts center would be a very positive addition to our Village and bring in not only more revenue for the Village, but more importantly, provide a space to enjoy the arts, not just performances, but artwork from our local artists.  We managed to find a developer who is working with us to build it at zero cost to the Village.  An Architect firm also volunteered their skills to help render the initial designs.  We believe that we can have this facility run perpetually with no impact to the Village budget, which makes this even more attractive.

 AW: Can people who are not Wellington residents still get involved and participate in Project Lighthouse?  What can they do to show their interest and support?

ST: We have a Facebook page called “Project Lighthouse – Community Vision” where we share the latest news on the project and discuss the performing arts.  Join the page and share your vision on the performing arts!  We have a tremendous amount of very talented people who have all expressed an interest in participating.  While the initial phase of getting the funding and approvals are being handled by a smaller local team, when this project gets moving into the building phase, we will call upon the experience and talent of the entire group to help craft a world class theater with quality programming and content.  So, get involved!  We need you!

AW: What are a few of the high points of this project where you definitely felt rewarded?

 ST: The Village Council graciously gave us a  90- day period to develop our proposal, and the day we were approved to move forward, a 5-0 vote, we were over the moon.  It was wonderful to get that first nod from our Council to move forward.  I would say that was by far one of the most rewarding moments.

AW: What are some of the challenges you might be encountering with a budget?

ST: We won’t really have a challenge with the budget because the developer will invest directly in the project themselves and finance the construction.  Where we see a challenge is in the changes that will be coming to the mall area.  There are a few options that were presented by the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council (TCRPC) about how to redevelop the area.  The sky is really the limit.  Project Lighthouse is a sort of catalyst to jumpstart the mall redevelopment.  I foresee a lot of discussion in the Village Council meetings about what could be done.  In the end, I believe we will have a fantastic redevelopment that will benefit the entire Village.  Project Lighthouse would complement any redevelopment nicely.

Above: The Project Lighthouse Group

AW: Do you have a background in public speaking or business administration?  In coming to a few meetings for Project Lighthouse, I have noticed that you are a very charismatic and knowledgeable public speaker.   Have you had other roles in the Wellington community to give you experience with building or organizing a major landmark?

ST: No!  Honestly, I have had to do a lot of learning!  I am in a sales role for a large software company, so public speaking isn’t new to me.  I even did summer stock theater as a kid in high school.  I am lucky to be surrounded by some very knowledgeable people in Project Lighthouse.  Aside from the developer and the architect, we have people that run businesses, work in real estate, marketing, the press as well as tremendous talent in the performing arts.  All of them have really helped me make these presentations effective.  It’s been a team effort.  If I look good up on stage, it’s because I have a great team supporting me.

AW:  In terms of Project Lighthouse, will this be a permanent project? Translation: Once everything is “off the ground” and running, what will be your level of involvement?

ST: Project Lighthouse will continue to be a part of this project for as long as the theater exists.  We are not going to run the development or the facility, but we believe that our role as advisors could continue indefinitely.  We have so many people with great ideas and backgrounds in the performing arts.  Many people with a history on Broadway have joined the group.  That talent should be leveraged whenever it can be.  I believe that my role will come to an end once the project is running.  I believe that leadership must involve many people and change in leadership is healthy.  I will always be there to support the group. 

AW: How can you incorporate your passion for cooking and Project Lighthouse?  I bet YOU could make it happen!

ST: I’m not sure about that yet, but I like the idea!  Cooking involves bringing the right ingredients and methods together to create something that is greater than the sum of its parts.  I believe Project Lighthouse is the same in that respect.  We have a great recipe for success, we have the very best ingredients in terms of people and talent.  Together it will help create something wonderful for our Village to enjoy for generations. I bet you’re thinking, “now I want some PIZZA”!   Don’t be shy, come to Trivia Night at Village Music on Mondays at 7pm.  The pizza starts baking at 6:30!  In addition, you can find out more about Project Lighthouse by going on the Facebook page, “Project Lighthouse – Community Vision.”