What is the greatest pizza on the globe?
In June 1889, the answer was clear. To honor the Queen consort of Italy, Margherita of Savoy, Chef Raffaele Esposito baked three different pizzas, the first was garnished with red tomatoes, the second was white with mozzarella cheese and the third was garnished green with basil representing the colors of the Italian flag. The Queen Margherita liked this idea, and in honour Raffaele Esposito named it “pizza Margherita” in her honor.
In mid 2012 more than 400 people gathered to watch the aptly named Simon Best get the judges’ nod at the world final of the Dairymont Global Pizza Challenge. And the Pizza? Mooloolaba Yellow Fin Tuna Seared with Black Sesame Seeds on a pizza base infused with Krio Krush black & white sesame seeds & blended Nori roll, topped with Perfect Italiano Mozzarella, avocado, mango salsa and pickled ginger.
Glenn Austin, chef extraordinaire and founder of the Australian Pizza Challenge says, “Simon’s pizza of 2012 demonstrates how a few ingredients can pack a fantastic taste experience; this pizza provides a high quality dining experience. “Simon set out with The pizza base as a blank canvas. He wanted to create a pizza with an explosion of flavours and he has achieved this”
Austin founded the Australian Pizza Challenge (formerly known as the Global Pizza & Pasta Challenge) over a decade ago in partnership with a dairy manufacturer encumbered with an excess of cheese. Quite simply, Austin was approached to solve the problem, and the APC was born. Subsequent to this, pizza has become the fasted growing global food trend, even proving in 2009 in the UK that industry is recession proof, with one major pizza chain boasting 25% growth. Says Austin, “People love to eat pizza. It is easily accessible, as well as affordable. I love pizza as it has provided me the opportunity to get back to cooking basics. I could see a clear, emerging trend in the pizza industry and we wanted to launch a competition that would promote and encourage culinary innovation with the world’s favorite food.”
But does winning an award make a difference?
“I was lost for words – that doesn’t happen too often,” says Best of his recent award. "Being a global competition, I just thought I should give it a go". Recognition like this is a big coup for regional businesses, affording them National – or in Best’s case, International –coverage that they might not have otherwise been able to afford.
“You can’t put a price on advertising like this,” says Best. “I had just about every form of media contact me even before I got the word out. Glenn Austin - founder of the Global Pizza Challenge and now the Australian Pizza Championships has asked me to be the Head Judge for the event. I respectfully declined for the following reason. Winning this event several times has seen a minimum of 28% increase in sales. I prefer to compete than judge. I encourage you all take the opportunity to enter this event in the hope of winning and experience the increase in sales for your business."
-Simon Best - 2017 Overall Winner & National Champion
And Simon Best is not alone. Previous Australian Winners John Lanzafame and Bruno Gentile both agree. “Winning the Challenge launched my career and changed my life to the value of six zeros. Literally.” Says Lanzafame.
Gentile says, “Winning Best Pizza launched six months of continuous growth for our business and we couldn’t keep up with the media enquiries. It added 30% to our bottom line and even helped to put our town on the map".
So what will be the secret to making the worlds best pizza in 2019?
Concludes Austin, “It’s probably going to take a little more than a Margarita, but I believe the secret to making a good pizza is really no secret at all. You require the following four main components: a great base, sauce, cheese and a healthy dose of skill.” And what have the entrants so far got up their sleeves for this year? John Lanzafame who will come out of retirement specifically to go head to head with Simon Best say, “I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say that everyone always does round, this year I’m going to break that convention.
· Overall 2018 Winner – Mark Paterno of Arte Bianca (Sydney)
· First Overall Runner Up – James Parker of Alphonsus Pizza of The Glen Hotel (QLD)
· Second Overall Runner Up – Raffaele Brotzu of Delisio Pizza Romana (WA)
· Meat/Poultry Category – Mark Paterno of Arte Bianca (Sydney)
· Best Interpretation of Sponsors’ Products Category – Mark Paterno of Arte Bianca (Sydney)
· Seafood Category – Michele Circhirillo (repeat winner) of 48H Pizza e Gnocchi Bar (VIC)
· Vegetarian or Gluten Free Category – Charlie Lawrence of Lost in a Forest (SA)
· Dessert Category – James Parker of Alphonsus Pizza of The Glen Hotel (QLD)
· Overall winner -- Simon Best, Augello’s, Mooloolaba (QLD) -
· Second place -- Giovanna Alberti, Woodstock Pizzeria, Chadstone (VIC)
· Third place -- Michele Circhirillo, 48h Pizza and Gnocchi Bar, South Yarra (VIC)
· Seafood -- Michele Circhirillo, 48h Pizza and Gnocchi Bar, South Yarra (VIC)
· Best Interpretation of Meat Cheese and Pineapple -- Simon Best, Augello’s, Mooloolaba (QLD)
· Dessert (new category) -- Giovanna Alberti, Woodstock Pizzeria, Chadstone (VIC)
· Meat/Poultry -- Suren Perera, Posty Pizza Bar, Richmond (VIC)
· Vegetarian or Gluten Free (new category) -- Gaurav Mehta, Secret Pizza, Adelaide (SA)