NAPA, Calif. — After twelve chefs spent a competitive day crafting innovative pizzas highlighting California cheeses, the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) today announced three new pizza champions in the 2022 Real California Pizza Contest – a national search for the best pizza recipes using Real California Cheese.
The Grand Prize winner, David Jacobson from Concord, Calif., is the Lead Pizzaiolo at Forge Pizza Fire Truck and Fourth Bore Taproom & Grill in the San Francisco Bay Area. He took home the top prize for his pizza recipe, The Gold Rush, representing The REAL Californian category.
The Gold Rush, which pays homage to the “golden” period of California’s gold rush history, incorporates six California dairy products: Mozzarella, Monterey Jack, Provolone, heavy cream and multiple California specialty cheeses, including a washed-rind triple crème and a nutty aged hard cheese. Topped with fingerling potatoes, pancetta and smoked sea salt, this pizza offers rich, complex flavors that are synonymous with California cheeses.
Jacobson received $5,000 for winning the category and an additional $10,000 for the grand prize distinction, for a total of $15,000.
The Plant-Forward category winner was Leah Scurto, the owner of Pizzaleah in Windsor, Calif., for her recipe, Spear-it of Spring, inspired by the veggies and colors of spring, pairing California Scamorza and aged Dry Jack cheeses with roasted asparagus spears, mint leaves, and baby arugula to deliver a fresh flavor profile in every bite.
The CMAB awarded Scurto $5,000 for her winning pizza. Scurto is now a two-time winner in the contest, as she claimed The REAL Californian category in 2021.
The Cal-Mex category winner was Marcus Medina, the owner of Hella Pie Pizza Company in Tracy, Calif., for his Cali Craft Chicken Enchilazza pie. Inspired by his family’s homemade enchilada recipe, Medina tastefully blends Mexican crema, Oaxaca and cotija with braised chicken, spicy enchilada sauce, and red cabbage to highlight the depth of flavor in Hispanic-style cheeses from California.
The CMAB awarded Medina $5,000 for the winning pizza. The nine other finalists received $500 each for reaching the bake-off finals.
“This year’s contest highlighted several top trends in foodservice. One example is the plant-forward category, where the winning pizza incorporated fresh California produce like asparagus and arugula with herbs and California cheeses,” said Mike Gallagher, Business and Market Development Consultant for the CMAB. “The chefs also impressed the judges with the unique fusion of ingredients, such as a pizza topped with ginger and honey to complement a wonderful California soft cheese. Overall, there was an overarching commitment to the creative use of California dairy throughout each recipe.”
The 4th Real California Pizza Contest, which was held at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Copia in Napa, Calif., was open to professional chefs and culinary students from throughout the U.S.
A renowned panel of judges presided over the contest. They consisted of: Tony Gemignani, 13-time World Pizza Champion and owner of 22 culinary concepts including restaurants, cafes and retail shops; Glenn Cybulski, certified pizzaiolo and award-winning executive chef; and Spencer Glenn, the 2021 RCPC Grand Prize Winner and general manager of the Pizza My Heart chain. Judges based their scores on a variety of factors including taste, texture and the inventive use of cheeses made with Real California Milk.
“When the pizza industry is healthy, the California dairy industry is healthy,” stated John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB during the competition. “As the number one producer of milk and mozzarella, so much of our business goes into pizza, it’s important for California to advance and innovate in the category.”
The full list of finalists for the 2022 Real California Pizza Contest is as follows:
- CATEGORY WINNER: Leah Scurto
- Max Cufre, sous chef at The Goat & Vine, San Diego, Calif.
- Yoshiharu Sogi, co-owner and operator of Yati Japanese Food Catering, Sonoma, Calif.
- Melina Felix, owner and operator of The Pizza Bandit, Littleton, Colo.
The REAL Californian
- GRAND PRIZE AND CATEGORY WINNER: David Jacobson
- Ray Cullison, owner operator of Charlie’s Pizzeria, LLC., Kingman, Ariz.
- Chris Decker, professional chef and managing partner at Metro Pizza, Las Vegas, Nev.
- Jason Garland, chef and bartender at Medina Golf & Country Club, Waverly, Minn.
- CATEGORY WINNER: Marcus Medina
- Ryan Ososky, owner and operator of Dtown Pizzeria, Los Angeles, Calif.
- Christopher Lascik, professional chef and kitchen manager of Well80 Brewhouse, Yelm, Wash.
- Austin Buckland, professional chef and manager at Berwick Pizza, Marion, Ohio
The video of the bake-off finals and the awards presentation is available at: 2022 RCPC Award Presentation. Additional details on the bake-off, the pizza chef finalists and the CMAB are available on the Real California Pizza Contest site.
As the nation’s largest dairy state, California boasts an impressive lineup of award-winning cheesemakers and dairy processors, that are helping to drive dining innovation. California is a reliable, consistent source of sustainable dairy products used by chefs throughout the world.
–Real California Milk
California Milk Advisory Board