The Story Behind Jimmy Kimmel and Pizza Legend Chris Bianco's Food-Fueled Friendship
“My parents live in Phoenix,” says the host of Jimmy Kimmel Live!, who read that it had been named the best pizza in America by The New York Times in 2004. “I told my dad, ‘When I’m there, we have to go.’ The first year we called and they were closed for Christmas. The next year they were closed again. Then the third year my dad went in there and talked to Chris—and I made a point to be in Arizona when he was open.”
When the two finally connected, “it was like I knew Jimmy for a hundred years,” the chef, 55, who will release his first cookbook, Bianco, on July 25, tells PEOPLE in the latest issue on newsstands now. “He was just one of those guys. We had a lot of similarities.” And for Kimmel, 49, the pizza, fresh out of the wood-burning oven, wasn’t what he expected. “It was better. I wouldn’t associate with him otherwise,” he laughs.
The pair became fast friends, connecting over their similar New York upbringings and mutual love for the Mets and Gulden’s mustard. “You know a lot by a man’s mustard,” says Bianco.
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In 2008 Kimmel persuaded Bianco (or as Kimmel’s daughter Jane, 3, calls him, Chris Beyoncé) to appear on his show and teach the world how to make the food that won him a James Beard Award. “I’ve learned a lot from him,” says Kimmel, a pizza aficionado in his own right. “One thing is to appreciate simplicity.”
Though a long battle with asthma recently forced Bianco to spend less time in front of the oven (the father of two used to make every pizza served at the restaurant), now he has more time to go fly fishing with Kimmel and their chef buddies like Adam Perry Lang. “Chris is one of the funniest guys I know—he’s a goofball,” says Kimmel. “He says the F-word more than anyone I’ve ever met.”
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Their close friendship—Kimmel was the best man at Bianco’s wedding in 2013—has also brought the restaurateur attention from critics, diners and celebrities alike. “Aziz Ansari sent me an e-mail, asking me to teach him how to make his pizza,” says Kimmel. “I was like, ‘You’re going to have to wait for the cookbook.’”
For more on Kimmel and Bianco’s friendship, and to get the recipe for the chef’s famous pizza, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE on newsstands now.
This article originally appeared on People.