By Tracy Morin

“It all started when I was in eighth grade,” says Xavier Jon Paul Machado, who’s the “JP” in JP’s Pizza, located in a far-western town called Kaumakani (population 1,148) on Kauai, Hawaii.

But unlike with many of these origin stories, Machado doesn’t have to go too far back into the recesses of his memory to access childhood—he’s only 18 years old. Call him a pizza prodigy in paradise: After initially taking an interest in the Neapolitan style, he set out to create his own pizza at home. “At the time, I knew nothing about how to create pizza dough, but I tried my best,” he says. “I started my pizza journey in my home oven, cooking pizzas on a 20” stone, making 10” pies. My inspiration to become a pizza chef was Domenico DeMarco, owner of Di Fara Pizza.”

Fortune would smile on the budding pizzaiolo when his father, Chad, spoke to a local who owned the restaurant Bobby V’s on the island of Kauai. The owner was amazed that, at just 17 years old, Machado showed such a great interest in this field of work, and he gifted the youngster his first gas oven, direct from his own restaurant. “From that point, I started creating and perfecting my pies in that oven,” Machado recalls. “Watching other chefs create their own style of pizza helped me gain confidence in myself, and I officially opened JP’s Pizza.”

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Machado notes that, at first, the business generated attention through word-of-mouth—“or, as we call it here in Hawaii, coconut wireless,” Machado says. “Once I got into the groove of things, I created an Instagram and Facebook page, which blew up within three weeks! We ended up with customers waiting up to two hours to try my style of pizza.”

This photo shows Xavier holding a large pepperoni pizza

JP’s Pizza

Machado calls his pizza “Brooklyn style,” defined by a crust with “a nice char on the bottom and a light crisp to it.” All of his sauces and ingredients are prepared fresh daily; he hand-crushes San Marzano tomatoes with Hawaiian salt and a special blend of herbs for a tasty base. His best sellers include the Supreme Pizza, the White Pie (JP’s special ricotta cheese blend, topped with garlic basil sauce), and the pepperoni calzone, served with a side of housemade marinara.

Machado has learned a lot since opening his doors, but he also benefits from the support of his family. His father acts as manager and kitchen assistant, while sister Gabby, mother Joy, aunt Panny and cousin Jacey all pitch in to help the business bloom. Help also comes from the strangers who make the trek to JP’s from far-flung locales to support the young man’s dream.

“What I’ve learned since we opened is that no matter what our location is—we’re farthest west on the island of Kauai—people will drive, or fly from different islands or states, to enjoy good food and company,” Machado says. “We are beyond honored to meet people from all over the world.”

These fans will shape the future of JP’s Pizza. “I did not attend any courses regarding my pizza business; I am self-taught through watching food critics and pizzaioli online,” Machado says. “Over the course of time, I had opportunities to learn from a few restaurant owners and used their knowledge to enhance my own. I am constantly learning from my customers’ feedback and suggestions.”

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In this photo, Xavier shows off a pizza topped with pepperoni, sausage and what looks like pesto

JP’s Pizza

One day, Machado would like to expand from the small takeout spot in which he’s currently working. “My future goals are to relocate into a larger location—that way, we can offer a dine-in restaurant and not just takeout from a hole in the wall,” Machado says.

Until then, he continues to diligently hone his craft round the clock. “On a daily basis,” he says, “my mission is to produce the best pizza for my customers—whether it’s a normal workday or my day off.”

Marketing, Pizzerias