“Everyone’s hands go in for a slice,” — An interview with Kendall Bruns of the U.S. Pizza Museum

MPLS Pizza Club pals, meet Kendall Bruns, founder of the U.S. Pizza Museum, Keynote Speaker at Pizza Camp 2018, and a well-traveled Pizza and National Park Enthusiast. “The U.S. Pizza Museum’s mission is to inspire curiosity and new ways of thinking about the rich history and recent developments in the world of pizza by collecting, preserving, interpreting, and exhibiting pizza-related items.”
Recently, MPLS Pizza Club/Pizza Camp founder Paige Guggemos sat down (over the internet) with Kendall to talk about what inspired the collection and get the slice on what Kendall loves about pizza and pizza events.

P: What do you love about pizza?

K: I love that pizza is a communal food—and it’s communal in such a visual way. I love the energy at a table when a pie is set down and everyone’s hands go in for a slice. It’s also a platform for lots of experimentation within a basic framework.

P: The U.S. Pizza Museum is genius! How did your collection begin?

K: Thanks! It snuck up on me. It started with menus and then crept into pizza boxes before I started really hunting for other pizza memorabilia like toys, games, and records.

I went to college at the Art Academy of Cincinnati and graduated with a sculpture degree but studied and experimented with lots of different mediums, including design. After college, I mostly worked as a designer and I ended up working with many of the museums in Cincinnati, designing exhibition invites and collateral material. At the same time, I was putting together gallery exhibits of my own work and group shows. So, that was a world I was very familiar with and once I had a collection of pizza-related items it just made sense to me that it could be shared and viewed from a historical or narrative perspective.

P: Is there anything you’ve tried to collect but have been unable to find?

K: When I was a kid, my family went to ShowBiz Pizza Place a couple times and it left a big impression on me. There are a lot of ShowBiz memorabilia collectors out there so it some of the harder stuff to get. A dream would be to have a functioning Rock-afire Explosion animatronic band to display.

P: Do you have a favorite item or two from your collection?

K: Pepperoni the Clown was one of the first items I acquired that was really mysterious. Where did he come from? Why choose a clown as a pizzeria mascot? Is he scary? Trying to research its origins (he was created for Cassano’s Pizza in Kettering, OH) and learn more about it led to emails with the family that owns the pizzeria and even they had gaps in the story, lost to time. That was something that helped reinforce to me that there was an opportunity to provide value by preserving these items and preserving their stories.

View here: https://uspizzamuseum.com/2016/05/03/cassanos-pizza-pepperoni-the-clown-doll/

P: What are you up to when you’re not collecting pizza items and eating pizza?

K: I’m working on a project called Trailsongs where I write songs inspired by visiting our National Parks. I’ve visited 28 of the 59 National Parks and written 25 songs so far. You can learn more here!

P: You’ve traveled around the U.S. to many different pizza places too, do you have a place or two that’s at the top of your list for a return trip or a place you’re looking forward to hitting next?

K: Every time I’m in NY I try to visit as many pizzerias as possible but the biggest regret is that I haven’t been to Totonno’s yet. Hoping to fix that this fall! Others that are top of my to-visit list include: Pizzeria Beddia (Philadelphia), Triple Beam Pizza (LA), and Del Popolo (San Francisco). As far as return trips go, I really want to visit Pizzeria Bianco (Phoenix) and Apizza Scholls (Portland) again.

P: What pizza are you excited about trying in Minneapolis?

K: I’ve been to and really enjoyed Pizzeria Lola so I’m really excited to try Ann Kim’s newest restaurant, Young Joni!

P: Would you rather stay in and make pizza or go out for it?

K: They’re both so great, in different ways! Mostly, I eat pizza at pizzerias though because they are experts, working with superior ovens and the best places are making their pizza with a passion that shows in the food and the hospitality. I like the community connection of getting out and supporting the businesses in person.

P: What’s your dream pizza?

K: I love bread and my favorite pizzas all start with amazing crust. I like being surprised by how only a few perfect ingredients can create a specific unique taste that transcends the individual components and becomes something new. Dream pizza makes me wonder how something so simple can be so complete.

P: What kind of events have you done with the U.S. Pizza Museum? 

K: What started as an online collection of memorabilia has led to exhibitions, pizza storytelling events, pizza-maker panels, and pizza-box art contests. I’ve particularly enjoyed all of the pizza box art contests because you get to see the pizza fandom come to life right before your eyes and it’s great to see all the different directions that people take with it.

P: What kind of impact has running the U.S. Pizza Museum had on your life?

K: I’ve met amazing pizza people like Derrick Tung, Paulie Gee, Scott Wiener, and Jonathan Goldsmith (just to name a few) all because of the U.S Pizza Museum. Everyone has been welcoming and supportive of what I’m trying to do. I’ve also been really fortunate to have close friends that have contributed in huge ways to make everything come to life and I’m incredibly thankful for their support. It’s about the people! Now it’s led me to Pizza Camp, so you never know what will come next.

Kendall with Pizza Pal Andrew W.K. at the Chicago Pizza Summit


















P: What’s your favorite pizza GIF? (if you have one?)

K: I don’t know if it counts as a GIF but I love the Winona Ryder SAG Awards Pizza meme! Watch it here!











P: What’s your least favorite pizza trend?

K: My least favorite pizza trend is people trying to hate on pizza that’s not exactly their favorite pizza. You can love a great NYC slice and also love Chicago Deep Dish. The debates can be fun and talking about what makes them different and why they got that way can be fascinating but I think there’s enough negative energy in the world—let’s not fight. Let people love the pizza they love!


P: Right on! What do you have planned for pizza camp?

K: I’m going to give a presentation about the history of pizza in the United States, regional styles of pizza, and hopefully will make the campers think about pizza in some new ways. There will also be an interactive component that will provide campers with a takeaway to remember Pizza Camp by.


P: Sounds GREAT! What are you personally looking forward to most about Pizza Camp?

K: Visiting and camping in National Parks is one of my other passions, so I feel like Pizza Camp was really made for me! I’ve never done archery before so I’m looking forward to trying that. Sitting around a campfire at the end of a long day is always great so I’m sure it will be even better with a bunch of pizza fans.


P: What’s next or.. what do you think the future of the U.S. Pizza Museum is?

K: There are big plans this summer that we’ll be announcing soon 🙂


We can’t wait to find out!

Visit The U.S. Pizza Museum online at uspizzamuseum.com to see more of Kendall’s Pizza Collection and an interview with Paige. You can also follow The U.S. Pizza Museum on Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter.