PIZZA COMPETITIONS are a great way to publicly acknowledge the terrific quality of the work being produced by Australia’s leading pizzamakers.
But what’s in it for YOU as an entrant?
First and foremost, it gives you the opportunity to put your skills to the test in the competitive arena, up against your peers.
Not only that, the rewards for a winner or finalist can be far greater than whatever is offered as a monetary prize.
An award or final placing can bring invaluable publicity and recognition to your business, making it well worth the effort of competing.
Plus, it’s a fantastic way of seeing what other pizzamakers are doing — a way to develop your own repertoire by exposure to other pizza recipes and cooking methods, sometimes from Australia’s top pizza chefs.
In today’s competitive market, where the pressure is on independent pizzamakers to be more creative than ever in developing innovative recipes, distinctive tastes and great presentations, that’s an opportunity worth serious consideration.
It’s also a way of keeping yourself and your staff stimulated — by experiencing new environments and pushing new boundaries. Many of us spend so much time in the kitchen that we’re in need of a fresh perspective, and competitions provide a way of seeing what innovations are happening across the industry.
You can promote your competition win using social media platforms, in-store Point Of Sale posters, countertop cards and other signage.
Many competition winners report that the publicity generated during event finals can carry on for months afterward.
“Customers come in and request your winning pizzas for lunch or dinner,” says Club Perfect Ambassador Simon Best of Augello’s Mooloolaba, who won joint Australian champion position at last year’s Global Pizza & Pasta Challenge Aussie finals.
“Business-wise, winning a competition is invaluable — you just can’t beat it in terms of boosting your reputation and attracting the public. Both pre- and post-competition we have had extensive media support particularly in the local papers.”
Fellow Club Perfect Ambassador Theo Kalogeracos of Little Caesar’s Pizza in Western Australia adds that the first time he participated in a pizza competition, he wondered whether all the effort would be worthwhile.
“But for me it was a win-win situation,” he says. “Turnover in my business increased by 25 per cent following my participation in the contest.”
Initially as a finalist and later competition winner, Theo received a lot of local publicity and some regular customers whom he had seen week in and week out but had never really spoken to came up and introduced themselves because they wanted to hear about his experience of competing.
Since then, Theo has become a veteran of international competitions, even picking up the World Pizza Champion title in Las Vegas. “I go now to judge in the US and it’s amazing how universal pizza has become. There are competitors from Switzerland, France, Spain … last year, and this blew me away, we had entrants from Mongolia! They’re entering a pizza competition … so it is a universal food, created by the Italians and given as a gift to the world.
“Being sent around the world, I’ve now eaten pizza everywhere,” he adds. “I bring those experiences back and turn them into recipes. You can actually go home and try to make yourself a New York or Chicago pizza or the rectangular style pizza they make in Rome.”
Even for those who don’t win or place, pizza competitions are a great way to network and pick up ideas.
Participants typically report making new friendships with other pizzamakers at the event, often exchanging tips with them about how to create a truly memorable pizza.
“The things you can pick up by participating in competitions are just awesome,” Theo affirms. “I was at a comp recently where one entrant used a special chutney with native Australian herbs. I’ve been making pizzas professionally since 1996 and sometimes I really feel like I’m just starting up when I see how much there is out there.”
While there can only be one winner for each competition, in a wider sense all pizzamakers are benefiting from the greater consumer awareness and appreciation of the art of pizzamaking that such events generate.
So if you’re thinking of entering a pizza competition … you’ll want to know what criteria the judges use to determine the winner.
While this will vary somewhat from one competition to another — and of course you should check out the entry information for whichever comp you’re thinking of entering - they will likely be considering the quality of your ingredients, the innovative use of different toppings and combinations to create flavour and texture, and the presentation as well as the taste.