Pizza. Need I say more? The California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) recently took the beloved food and created a bake-off to award two contestants with a cool $25,000 as part of its 2020 Real California Pizza Contest. Participants were asked to create their own rendition of the classic food using Real California Cheese, and boy did they deliver.
“When the pizza industry is healthy, the California dairy industry is healthy,” stated John Talbot, CEO. “So much of our business goes into the pizza industry that it’s really important for California dairy farmers when we can help advance and innovate in the pizza category.”
Ricky Webster, former Executive Chef for Sysco and current Owner of Rind and Wheat Bakery in Spokane, Washington, took home the grand prize for his San Francisco-inspired pizza, aptly called The Wharf.
“I am beyond excited to have won the Grand Prize in the 2020 Real California Pizza Competition! My Pizza ‘The Wharf’ was truly inspired by growing up in the Bay Area,” said Webster. “Thank you to the CMAB for hosting this amazing competition and for still going through with it. It was such a positive event to be part of!”
Webster’s pizza was designed around the clam chowder that the wharfs of San Francisco are famous for. According to a press release, it features a sourdough crust, fresh clams, and three California cheese and dairy products including crème fraîche, mozzarella, and heavy cream. For his amazing efforts, Webster was awarded with $5,000 for winning the REAL California category, and an additional $10,000 for his grand prize achievement.
Along with Webster, Lars Smith, a professional chef and Owner of State of Mind Public House and Pizzeria in Los Altos, California, swept both of the remaining two categories, earning him $10,000. Smith was recognized for the following pizzas:
“Winning one of my categories would have been amazing, but winning both categories wasn’t even something I considered a possibility. I also can’t stress enough how much winning in this specific competition means to me,” said Smith. “Using California cheeses and products in general is so integral to who I am as a chef. I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to show everyone that California makes some of the best, if not the best, cheeses in the world.”
With Webster and Smith winning the top three spots, the nine other finalists were awarded with $500 each for reaching the bake-off portion of the competition.
The bake-off was opened to professional chefs and culinary students from across the U.S. and ended up gaining entries spanning 24 states, with 11 professional chefs joining the mix.
“This year’s contest highlighted several top trends in foodservice,” said Mike Gallagher, Business and Market Development Consultant for CMAB. “The finalists impressed the judges with unique recipes, bold interpretations within our innovative categories, and an overarching commitment to the creative use of California dairy throughout each pizza.”
With COVID-19 changing the landscape, this year’s competition required a change of procedures to meet health requirements for all participants. To ensure that all those taking part in the event remained out of harm’s way, the event was held in a socially distanced format at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Copia in Napa, CA, and each of the finalists’ recipes were prepared by chef instructors from the CIA. The precautions allowed not only the contest to be held safely, but showed CMAB’s unwavering support of the foodservice industry following the challenges of the pandemic.
“Foodservice is a big part of total California dairy and, just as dairy farmers haven’t stopped producing nutritious milk during this uncertain time, the foodservice community has continued to step up and keep our communities fed,” said Bob Carroll, Vice President of Business Development for the CMAB. “Technomic estimates that total foodservice sales are going to be down 25 percent this year so continuing this contest and honoring the creativity and commitment of chefs and foodservice operators is one way we can help.”
The judges based their scores on a variety of factors including taste, texture, and the inventive use of cheeses made with Real California Milk.
Over $30,000 in prizes was given out for the entire competition, and the full list of finalists and categories can be found here.
With so many creative pizza recipes to choose from, it is a wonder that judges were able to award just three top categories. Congratulations to all of those who entered and made it to the final round. Who will take home next year’s awards? Keep reading Deli Market News to find out.