Someone once said that if you find a profession that you truly love, then you’ll never have to work a day in your life. If the words of that particular adage have any truth at all, then Jessica and Anton Trifonov have been living the easy life for the past fifteen years. As owners of Pizza Chef in Guyton, the couple have found a niche that has won the enthusiastic approval of locals and visitors alike with their own brand of Italian food. “We try to put our heart into every order,” says Jessica. “Every salad, calzone, or pizza is made for that specific person, and our personality really comes through in the pizzas we make.” Originally from Kentucky, Jessica has lived in Savannah area since 1986. “I truly love the South and Guyton in particular. I moved here with the company in 2002. Three years later my husband and I bought the restaurant, so we’re getting ready to celebrate our fifteenth year. We’re really excited about that.”
Jessica began working for Pizza Chef in 2002 after a friend brought her into the company to only work part-time on weekends. Gradually she began working four days a week, and then a full week. “Before I knew it, I had become the manager, Jessica recalls. “The owner at the time was preparing to move the location from Pooler (to Guyton) due to a considerable amount of competition in that area and to simply be in a location that needed a new restaurant. Then when the opportunity came to purchase Pizza Chef, I just jumped at the chance since I love the company. Plus, who doesn’t love pizza, right?”
When the couple purchased the business in 2005, their first executive decision involved taking a pay cut. “We had to reduce our pay to get things started, but other than that it was a smooth transition. Other than making some minor changes, we closed on a Saturday with one owner and opened up on the following Monday with two new owners. We’ve stuck with it because we love being in Guyton, meeting people and making pizzas,” recalls Jessica.
After moving the franchise to Guyton, the restaurant has been nothing short of a remarkable success, which Jessica attributes to a number of factors. “We make everything as much from scratch as possible. We make our own dough fresh every day, and we also start with a basic sauce, adding seasoning and spices to really make it our own. A lot of the bigger chains use a frozen dough, which is acceptable if you’re that busy,” she says. “We make every pizza to order; nothing is made ahead of time.” One local customer, Susan Altman echoes Jessica’s sentiments. “Pizza Chef is truly the best, and they are always happy to deliver right to your doorstep. All the employees are very kind and have become wonderful friends as well. My puppy, Sophia, also loves them and knows when they get here before I do,” she says.
As well as handling all the paperwork for Pizza Chef as its Chief Financial Officer, Jessica’s husband Anton is also the delivery driver. He says, “We feel that we give more personal customer service because we’ve known most of our customers for a very long time. It’s more like a family than a business and we do our best to make every order perfect.” Hailing from Bulgaria, Anton came to the South in order to join his father in the family trucking business. “A few people don’t know what to make of me because of my accent, but once they get to know me, we become great friends,” he says with a smile. As far as working with his wife, Anton says it’s not always easy but always worthwhile. “Working with my wife
has it’s challenges,” he says with a laugh, “but it’s proven to be a very successful combination. We’re in a very good place right now.”
As a self-described “people person,” Jessica says she’s comfortable overseeing the employees and greeting the friendly faces who grace their restaurant. “I love the people as well as the familiarity of working here. We have a great product and wonderful customers. We’ve had some of the same customers since moving here in 2002 and have watched some of them grow into adults. They’ve worked with us as teenagers and have moved on to various careers, so it’s really like seeing your own kids grow up.. For us, it’s really about the people, not the profits,” she says. Anton agrees, adding, “For anyone who hasn’t tried our pizza, before you go to one of the chain restaurants, give Pizza Chef a
chance, and you’ll never go back to them.”