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Blind pizza chef shares journey to opening restaurant in Delray Beach

'My dream was always to own my own restaurant,' Jordan Thomas says
Posted at 5:21 PM, Jun 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-22 17:46:01-04

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — It takes grit to open a restaurant, but one man and his family have more than that.

In the elbow of a western Delray Beach strip mall, now open less than two months, pizza lovers are getting wrapped up in the Twisted Tomato pizzeria.

Husband and wife, Jordan and Adrienne Thomas, are the owners. They serve up “Old Forge” style pizza. Like them, it’s an original out of Pennsylvania.

“There are no pies, there are trays. There are no slices, they’re cuts,” Jordan Thomas said. “It’s light, it’s airy, a blend of cheeses, plum tomato sauce, it’s very distinctive to what people are accustomed to.”

“My dream was always to own my own restaurant – my whole life starting from 13, washing dishes,” he said.

It would be a dream delayed. In their early years together, big plans were made. The couple, who met when they were just children, married almost exactly 10 years ago.

 Jordan and Adrienne Thomas Twisted Tomato June 22 2023.jpg
Jordan and Adrienne Thomas share how they make owning a pizzeria work.

“I’ve been supportive the whole way," Adrienne Thomas said. "We have a really good relationship."

Jordan Thomas was a firefighter and his wife planned to become a lawyer.

“I can remember 2013," Jordan Thomas said. "I can remember my wedding day. I can remember what I ate that day.”

The moments at their wedding would be among the last Jordan Thomas would ever see. Two weeks after, he started experiencing headaches and his vision went in and out. A month after that day, he went completely blind. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and a tumor that crushed his optic nerve took his sight.

“For a long time, it was just, something’s wrong, it’s going to come back, it’s going to come back,” Jordan Thomas said, reflecting.

He was thrown into the most difficult time in his life, trying every medical option available.

“From there I kind of crashed and I kind of gave up and didn’t want to do anything at all,” he said. “I thought that I was never going to do anything. I kind of was just feeling sorry for myself, and not really wanting to see people and not really wanting to do things.”

Old Forge style pizza Twisted Tomato.jpg
Old Forge style pizza are called cuts instead of slices and trays instead of pies.

Years passed, when Jordan Thomas decided to carve a path he’d all but given up—to move to Florida and open a restaurant, bringing the Old Forge tastes to a new community.

“I’ll never forget it just one day, I just kind of had my breaking point. And I told my wife, I said, we’re going,” he said.

Their dream, once delayed, was realized. While Jordan Thomas could use his team to make the food, he makes every Pennsylvania pizza himself.

“I take all of the seasonings and I have them all in a line. They are all in order, and I know exactly where they are, and I know exactly how much goes on, and I have this system where I put the pan in front, in a certain way, and I spin the pan, and I guide my hand to guide the line around the cheese." Jordan Thomas said. "The double white, I know how much, how many handfuls to put in. I know how many swipes across with pepper, how many swipes across with garlic salt.”

Jordan Thomas making pizza Twisted Tomato.jpg
Jordan Thomas makes every Pennsylvania pizza himself.

The ability to adapt came from his own determination and the support of his family.

“I feel like I made so many pizzas and felt like, oh, I can make it with my eyes closed, well I can really make it with my eyes closed,” he laughed.

In the Twisted Tomato restaurant, Jordan Thomas’ dad is on the pizza oven, his mom waits tables, his wife works the books and takeout, and their teenage daughter is a hostess, along with the hired team, which are becoming members of the family.

Jordan Thomas plans to give back to the community. A dollar from every pan of pizza will be split between the American Foundation of the Blind and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

“Take that trip. Take that jump. Take that ride. You know, because no one knows. Life is so up and down, like a roller coaster," he said. "That’s the best way to describe my life, like a roller coaster up and down.”

The Twisted Tomato is located in the King’s Point Shopping Center at 6600 W. Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach. For more information about the pizzeria, call 561-808-8120.