Operations

Blaze Pizza ousts its co-founder and culinary chief

Brad Kent, who developed and evolved the fast-casual chain's menu over nearly 12 years, said it was a surprise. Company officials told him they wanted to go in a different direction.
Blaze Pizza
Pasadena, Calif.-based Blaze brought in a new CEO in January. /Photo: Shutterstock.

Brad Kent, one of the co-founders of Blaze Pizza and the culinary mastermind behind the concept, was terminated from the fast-casual pizza chain earlier this month.

Kent said he was terminated on March 10 without cause and that the move was a complete surprise. He said the only explanation was that the brand wanted to move in a different direction.

The culinary executive had recently sold two Los Angeles concepts he founded, Olio Wood-Fired Pizza and Bagel+Slice, to focus more on Blaze, which brought in new CEO Beto Guajardo in January.

The Pasadena, Calif.-based Blaze was founded by Rick Wetzel and his wife Elise, along with Kent, who served as chief culinary officer. The concept attracted many high-profile investors, including NBA Star LeBron James, former California First Lady Maria Shriver and movie producer John Davis. Later, private equity firm Brentwood Associates joined the investment team.

After growing the chain to more than 300 units, the Wetzels sold their interest in 2020.

Kent has long been known in the industry as a food scientist who paid close attention to details. At Blaze, he spent years perfecting the crust, which was designed to hold up to the quick-bake model of fast-casual pizza, where guests build their own pizzas as they walk the makeline

He also worked with suppliers to develop proprietary ingredients and designed new equipment to ease operations. He designed a table-top pizza oven, for example, that he will soon use to compete in a pizzaiolo contest in Las Vegas.

He has also been a passionate advocate for the use of more natural products and regenerative agriculture, as well as making good food more accessible—which was a core value at Blaze when it was first launched.

In a statement, Blaze officials confirmed that Kent is no longer with the company, and they wished him the best on his next venture but offered no explanation.

“The Blaze team is looking forward to an exciting new chapter as we dive into innovation and evolution across the culinary sector,” the company said in an email.

 

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