For many people, it’s little more than a tasty breakfast. But for Jason Uslan, it’s a way of life.
“Typically, I don’t bother with the syrup or the cherry, I usually just pour the bourbon into a glass and call that an Old Fashioned.”
He’s a unique combination of gastronome, showman, and raconteur. Stood at his kitchen island, sporting a leather Sweeney Todd apron and a steel bowl of chicken wings, Jason Uslan is a celebrity chef for a new era.
“The thing with 4th July food is, the day’s really meant for being with people, it’s not meant for making big, extravagant meals. It’s simple food, cooked outside, you can eat with a beer, spend time with friends, and converse. We don’t take the food so seriously; we do take the celebrating seriously.”
While guiding his audience through simple recipes designed for busy homes, Uslan dispenses lifestyle advice, answers questions from his audience, and tells anecdotes from the world of people management.
It’s a dramatic transition from Uslan’s ‘day job’ as RingCentral UK’s senior manager of mid-market sales. In some ways, it doesn’t make sense.
“I know what you’re thinking,” says Uslan. “I’ve been in sales and management all my life. I’ve done well in that space, and I don’t regret a minute of it.” So what gives?
“When I go home and take off the tie, I walk straight into the kitchen and slip on the apron. It’s my passion, and that’s never going to change.”
When the world went home to escape coronavirus, it marked a change for Uslan.
“I wasn’t coming home anymore: I was always home. And the kitchen kept calling.”
At the same time, another Jason was on the lookout for ways to enhance RingCentral UK’s employee experience.
Employee engagement genius Jason Lane was building a strategy to keep remote colleagues connected and offer them a break from the intensity of the working day.
“It was kind of an organic process,” says Lane. “We just sort of…found each other.”
The two agreed to trial a midweek online cooking class for RingCentral UK employees. For an hour at lunchtime, Uslan would take viewers through a recipe from his family collection. The reception was astounding.
“We had people dialing in from places I’d never even heard of,” says Uslan. “To be honest with you, the pasta didn’t quite turn out how I liked – but that didn’t even matter.”
It was the experiential distraction that captured his audience’s imagination.
“From my side, I was delighted to be sharing my passion with people,” Uslan reflects. “But of course, it wasn’t until the pizza episode that things really took off.”
The pizza episode
“I guess it had all the right ingredients,” he says, looking back on the moment that led Uslan to become a household name virtually overnight.
The pizza episode saw Uslan returning to an old family favourite. The recipe was a big hit. Uslan had found a winning formula.
“It’s definitely not just about the recipes,” says Lane. “It’s the rapport, the way he engages with the audience, the whole package.”
What happened next varies depending on who you’re speaking to. But here’s what it boils down to: Someone shared the pizza video on social, the clip went viral, Uslan’s fan base began its exponential growth, and a brand was born.
Fast forward three weeks and Uslan is one of West London’s most popular pizza artisans. Uslan Pizza – the food, the YouTube channel, and the signature apron – is fast becoming a post-pandemic emergent lifestyle.
And the rumours of a book deal?
“That could be the next chapter,” nods Uslan. “I’m not sure how much I can say, but I’m working on some new recipes right now. We’ll see what happens.”
A new way to approach work
So did the initiative achieve its objective?
“In more ways than we could have hoped for,” says Lane. “Now we’re getting requests for shoutouts, specific dishes, special appearances, all kinds of things.”
From an initial base of loyal viewers, Uslan’s cooking show has become a media behemoth and just keeps growing.
“Our employees love that break from the working day, that chance to connect and share an experience with their colleagues,” says Lane. “In terms of productivity, we’re hitting new records with each passing quarter. And we all love to see one of our own do well. We couldn’t be happier for Jason.”
With companies around the world trialing their own remote engagement sessions, it looks like this practice is shaping the way we conduct business with an industry-agnostic appeal. “I don’t want to say I was the first or anything,” says Lane, “but I like to think I helped bring this approach to employee wellbeing into the mainstream.”
He’s playing it down. Lane, an accomplished theatre director and choreographer, knows the value of connecting with people – whether that’s on the stage, in the office, or over a video call. Now, in his role as an internal engagement manager, Lane helps create stars from the RingCentral talent pool.
“You could say I was in the right place at the right time,” adds Uslan. “I’m forever grateful to Jason for the opportunity and the platform he gave me, and I’m committed to putting all this love back into my cooking.”
And that sounds like a recipe for success.
For booking enquiries regarding Jason Uslan, please contact RingCentral UK directly. At the time of writing, Uslan Pizza does not deliver internationally.
Originally published Aug 31, 2020, updated Dec 30, 2022