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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Check out pictures of Italy's Pizza Oscar winners

The winners from Italy's second annual Pizza Oscars are in.  The competition was hosted by Angelo Petrone a professor at, the Italy-based pizza school headquartered in Pisa.  In previous years the competition was based solely on how photogenic a pizza was.  But with a new competition format that also judges pizza on taste, pizzas can't win on looks alone.  Like the real Oscars, they must also make a stunning performance.

The competition runs in two stages.  The first part, taking place in August was called the Great Beauty (in reference to the 2013 Italian Film.)  Over 100 contestants entered in either the Classic or Gourmet categories.  From this pool of contestants, 24 were selected to recreate the pizzas in their photos and present them before a panel of judges at the Eataly location in Florence.

Without further ado, here are the first place winners.
Created by Giuseppe Frau in the Classic division. 

This "great beauty" consists of mozzarella, prosciutto crudo, cherry tomatoes and Parmesan cheese flakes topped with a ball of buffalo mozzarella which been wrapped in raw prosciutto.

Domenico Felice from Florence took first in the Gourmet division 

Both categories had ties for 2nd place.  What follows are both second places and the 3 place pizzas for the Classic and Gourmet categories.

2nd place Classic: Marco Fuso from London 
Also 2nd place Classic: Mattia di Giovannantonio from Giulianova 
3rd place Classic: Marcello Fotia from Anzio

2nd place Gourmet: Paolo Albante from Austria  
2nd in Gourmet also: Rocco Meninno from Grottaminarda 
3rd place in Gourmet: Marcello Fotia from Anzio

If you want to see more from visit them at their website.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

GI Metal just got even more spectacular

Here I am with GI Metal's President Marco D'Annibale
You've seen them in PMQ magazine, at trade shows far and wide and sponsoring a variety of pizza events and competitions.  GI Metal is perhaps the most important luxury pizza tool company with designer products engineered and manufactured in Italy.  Now GI Metal, the company that began as a humble family enterprise, has opened their doors to a remarkable new facility.  "The new office gives breath to our thirty-year project that already sees us present on the main world markets," says Marco D'Annibale, GI Metal's founder and CEO.

This new high tech laser cuts with precision and speed
The grand opening was this past September 12th but I had the honor of visiting the plant in in May when the final pieces were coming into place.  GI Metal's new headquarters remains in Italy's Tuscany region going from their old location in Prato to the nextdoor area of Pistoia, not far from Florence.  Indeed the demand for high quality pizza tools had outgrown GI Metal's capacity and now with the new facility, the company looks forward to meeting international demands efficiently and on time.  During my visit I noticed boxes labeled for shipment to places as far away as Kenya.

Among the new additions to their technology such as a state-of-the-art laser to pierce GI Metal's signature metal peels, the company has made some enormous strides in contributing to the education of pizza makers.  GI Metal's new test kitchen called the PalaPizza is set to become a cultural pizza center for training courses and product testing.  The new test kitchen is outfitted with GI Metal tools and a Swedish PizzaMaster oven.

Equally impressive is the new show room which displays the entire range of GI Metal products in beautifully lit displays that could only rival James Bond, Maserati or perhaps the Bat Cave.  The long vertical panels displaying the peels below rotate to be completely hidden.  When they are rotated out to be displayed a spotlight shines on the individual panel, illuminating the piece in all its glory.

The grand opening began with a ribbon cutting by Ferdinando Betti, the Mayor of Montale, in the province of Pistoia.  Afterwards guests were welcomed into the PalaPizza room for a pizza tasting and dough spinning entertainment.  PMQ wasn't able to make it to the grand opening this time, but we are looking forward to attending future events in the PalaPizza.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Neapolitan pizzaiola becomes first female pizza champion in international competition

Photo Credit: Scatti di Gusto
September 2nd Teresa Iorio made Neapolitan pizza history becoming the first woman pizza maker to win the STG pizza category at the Trofeo Caputo competition in Naples.  STG is the abbreviation used to describe a United Nations-approved set of standards and procedures which separates an authentic Neapolitan pizza from the imitations.  STG stands for Specialità Traditionale Garantita (guaranteed traditional speciality) and after 14 years of competition, the first female champion in this highly-prestigious category has emerged.

A native to Naples, Iorio erupted with joyous tears upon receiving her 1st place trophy.  "I never imagined I could win - I'm sharing my victory with all the women who dedicate themselves to this line of work" (  Iorio also dedicates her victory to her father Ernesto who taught her the art of pizza making.  "When I stretch out a pizza dough I always think about him," says Iorio.

The Trofeo Caputo continues to bring more and more international pizza makers each year.  This year there were 50 wood burning ovens dotted along the coast at the Lungomare coast feeding the crowds as the competition trailed into the early morning hours.  The championship was well attended by an international crowd, particularly from Asia.  This year a pizza maker from Korea, Lee Yoong Woo took home first place in the pizza classica division, to the dismay of many Italians.

If you're in Naples, be sure to stop by Teresa's family-owned pizzeria, le Figlie di Iorio (the daughters of Iorio) and taste for yourself.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

We triple dog dare you to compete in Shanghai's Triple Panel Pizza Challenge

PMQ and the U.S. Pizza Team are gearing up for a far out adventure in the far east.  Celebrating its 10th year, the Chinese Pizza Championship and PMQ China are adding a thrice enticing pizza competition into the Pizza Pavilion at the FHC food show in Shanghai.

For the first time in pizza history, pizzaiolos will present their pies to a judging trifecta.  Three separate panels composed of judges from different countries (USA, Italy and China) will judge each competition pizza according to their own native tastes.  Awards will be given for the highest ranking pizza for each national panel as well as a highest score overall.  The competition is open to any pizza maker with the gumption to take on the challenge, and especially those interested in knowing how their pizza may be received in different markets.

For example, a strong flavored cheese may be praised by the American judges but displeasing to the Chinese and possibly to the Italians.  Whereas a strong fish taste would likely be voted down by Americans, yet celebrated by Italians and admired by the Chinese.  Submitting your pizza to all three panels will give invaluable feedback on foreign preferences for crust consistency, texture and taste.

The Triple Panel Pizza Challenge will take place inside the FHC (Food Hospitality China) show, the largest domestic show in China, this November 11-13 in Shanghai.  The Pizza Pavilion, put together by PMQ China will consist of a huge competition area set off in the red box on the map. There will be pizza tossing demos, a rest area for the competitors, a large space for judging and the audience. See photos and info from last year's competition where Steve Green was a judge in a Pizza Without Borders post here.

The map here displays only one hall of the seven which specializes in imported foods, bakery and ice-cream, beer, wine, meat, coffee & tea and the culinary arts.  

But it's not all business.  Join us for several excursions along the way to help you get the most out of your Chinese adventure.  Shanghai is rich with an eclectic mix of ancient brick and wildly modern colored lights.  Team members who come along will enjoy a relaxing cruise down the Huangpu River and a peaceful visit to a picturesque water town called Wuzhen.  You can shop for ingredients at local markets, visit old temples or try some adventurous foods!

The official PMQ Chinese pizza tour happens November 9-15th and includes hotel, tour bus transportation and most meals for the low price of $1215 per person.  This does not include the competition registration fee of $250 nor airfare.

Space is limited to 25 seats and a Chinese visa from the consulate is required, so book soon!  You may contact Caroline Felker to reserve your seat at 662-801-0878 or email her at Caroline (at) pmq (dot) com.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

5 secrets to Denmark’s million dollar pizza shop

In Copenhagen’s bustling airport, Gorm’s pizzeria is booming.  In the past two months alone they've racked up 1.4 million U.S. dollars in sales.  I spoke with head chef, world champion pizza maker and kitchen efficiency architect Mike Arvblom on how runs what he calls "Denmark's million dollar pizza shop."
Left: Mike Arvblom, Master Pizza Chef at Gorm's
Right: Gorm, Owner of Gorm's and TV Chef

Firstly, Mike has some serious credentials in the pizza industry.  His life-long and varied experience in pizza brought to this high point in his career. He is a Swede born in Beverly Hills, son of an engineer gone rogue for making pizza. With technical skills and passion for the industry, Mike’s father, John Arvblom showed Mike from infancy how to run a shop, how to read blue prints, design a kitchen, motivate staff and most importnatly make the pizzeria a successful, viable booming business. Together with his father Mike built pizzerias from the ground up in L.A., Sweden and even Budapest, builiding them, running them and selling them a year later, gaining a wealth of knowledge (and money!) along the way.

Without further ado, here are the top 5 things to look for in a milion dollar pizza shop. 

1. Smart Kitchen Layout

Time is money so each moment counts in the kitchen. Set up your equipment to minimize the distance your staff needs to go to make an order.  Mike gives this example:

"Take for example the proximity of the make table to the oven. If the oven is 3 steps away, that will make it 6 steps each time a staff member goes to the oven and back, roughly 6 secs per pie. Don't forget that there will be constant checking to make sure the pizza doesn't burn as well which could take away another 6 seconds of time.

Let’s say you make 700 pizzas in one day. That means 700 times putting a pizza in, 700 times pulling it out and 700 times going to and from the oven to check the pizza. That’s 700 X 4 = 2,800 sets of 3 steps/seconds equaling 280 minutes or 4.6 hours that have been lost simply by placing the pizza oven far away.   Instead you can use that 280 min some where else saving on labor cost plus your staff won't get as tired walking to and from the oven."

Mike learned this valuable lesson working in Malmö, Sweden’s busiest pizza store. The oven was right next to the make table and the pies were flying fast from the kitchen.
Jannis and Evelina, two Swedish pizza champions

2. Modern Equipment

"Nothing beats a hand tossed pizza and while the tradition and craft of pizza still has it’s rightful place, it’s important to respect the evolution of the pizza industry," says Mike. "Never limit yourself to certain ideas." 

Mike compares a handcrafted pizza to a manual screw driver which gives you full control while the new generation of pizza equipment is fast and easy to use.

At Gorm’s, Mike points out two pieces of equipment which he finds exceptionally useful, an oven with a quick recovery time and a hot pizza press. The oven that he’s found is Swedish made and he says the recovery time is nearly instant. It’s a 3 deck oven with a patented design whose quick recovery time “has never let them down” at their incredibly busy store.

"The hot press helps the pizzas cook and the oven to recover faster since it warms the dough to room temperature before going into the oven. The press opens 10-12 doughs per minute. Which goes to the make table capable of preparing 20 pizzas on and then in the oven which can hold up to 18 pizzas."

3. Communication

Communication is vitally important in the kitchen so that food can come out on time, at the same time. At Gorm’s there is not just pizza, there is also pasta and sides which need to be coordianted. The staff making pizza face directly the people at the pasta/sides station. When there is a pizza order with a pasta or side, the pasta staff is alerted when the pizza is in the oven so they know right away how much time they have to prepare the rest of the order. 

4. Make it fun and it will get done!

Having the workers face each other is not only good for communciation, but it facilites bonding and a playful attitude.

“With my experience when you are having fun time goes faster and you are having fun. We crack jokes to each other, make up new names to each other or different words which many times don't make sense,” Mike says.

He’s developed nicknames for all his staff members from Swedish Viking to Habubi (little squishy one in Arabic) or Ninja and affectionally refers to all of them as his happy warriors. Some of the phrases they use are “fire in the hole!” when the pizza is in the oven or when the ninja leaves the kitchen Mike mystically says, “ninja vanish.”

5. Strong staff makes a great business

When Mike considers hiring a new employee to work at Gorm’s, the résumé is trival he says. 

“I don't care which school they've been to or where they worked.  There's only one thing, how fast they are and how well do they work. I put them one day in the pit to see how well they function with the others. If they pass then they are hired.

Hightech pizza making equipment at a super speed won't matter if you don't have the right people to run it. Our record sales could not have been done with out my super speed crew! Thanks to them it works great, without them it is not possible. I always tell them it's a real honor to work with happy warriors like them! A great staff is key to a humble, fast kitchen.

Most of the staff is hand picked by me, since I'm a fast food junky I'm always out eating and looking at the work setup and their speed. That how I have found most of my workers. I saw them in action handling multiple stations with no sweat. It’s like when an American baseball team scout goes out and looks for talented baseball players for the team, but in this case it was pizza makers for me. I have 12 pizza chefs and 3 part time and 4 renta chefs on the Gorm's airport pizza team."

As the creator of the National Swedish pizza team, Mike brought on board national champions like Jannis and Evelina who both placed silver in National Swedish competitions, and Petrut (11th place in Scandinavia).  He also brought on board his brother Daniel Arvblom, continuing on the family business. 

Some final tips

Never limit yourself, use any technique that works, never limit yourself to one idea. Go to events and expos. Work on efficiency but never cut quality.  Stay humble. "Gorm is a humble person, just like pizza," says Mike.

"I think with SSP Denmark's great knowlege in the food business, Gorm's secret delicious crunchy pizza recipe, my humble national pizza team, the other great pizza chefs on board in the kitchen and my high speed kitchen layout making sales in minutes, is a great success, I would call it the million dollar pizza shop.

I would like to give a special thanks to my chefs for their amazing work and that it’s an honor to standby next to them and get blasted away with nonstop orders."

Next year Gorm’s plans to increase sales even more by 10-15 percent. Mike has already calculated one or two ways to shave off time in the kitchen moving customers in and out of the dining area at a faster rate. Arvblom also plans to introduce fun superlative awards (Best Service, Sexiest Pizza, Best Team Worker) to express his sincere gratitude and keep the atmosphere always light-hearted.  

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Baguette vending machine in Paris is REAL

Not far from the Eiffel tower, you can find this handy little machine.  Attached to a bakery, these vending machines store nearly finished baguettes in their interior refrigeration.  All you have to do is put in 1 euro and wait 15 seconds for the baguette to pop out of the bottom.  The beauty of these machines is that it allows the French to work even less hours!  

Joking aside, French bakers work hard, long hours.  Most tend to take a day off once a week.  This picture was taken on a Sunday.  Fortunately now they don't have to leave you high and dry or... hungry anyway.  

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

5 weird things French people do to pizza

This week I’ll be leaving chère Paris and moving to my husband’s hometown in Utrecht, the Netherlands.  Will I miss Paris?  Of course. I’ll miss being able to buy fruits and vegetables at the convenience stores and outside metro stops.  I’ll miss the communal bike system.  I’ll miss the butter infused air outside of bakeries.  I’ll miss people shaking thier head and saying “oh la la” with a menacing pucker of their lips.  

So now that I’m leaving, it’s only right to acknowledge them and in all their odd pizza glory expressed in the 5 following tendencies which are pretty dang French.

1. The cracked egg on top

French people tend to use eggs like Americans use sprigs of parsely.  You can never be sure when one will appear on your food at a restaurant.  It will be notoriously runny, a signature on galettes and steak tartar, some French people throw them on pizzas too.

Pizza Margherita "avec" egg

Traditional galette with a runny yolk

2. Extreme proofing times
Many of the most valued French products come from some process of aging.  Bread is made with old strains of mother yeast, wine ages in the cellar, cheese in caves and truffles take years growing in the ground.  The slower method is generally seen as the most delicious and most precious in French culture.  Corporate Chef at Galbani cheese Bruno Bertrand let his pizza rest for 11 days before serving it topped with Galbani at the Parizza food show.  He explained that over time, the fermentation process will give the dough a rich and distinct aroma due to the alcohol that develops in the dough after proofing for days upon days.  French love the taste of alcohol, just look at all their
cognac sauces, coq au vins and boeuf bourguignons.

3. Pizzerias regularly close for a month in August

I recently heard that Paris is the most visited city in the world and least revisited.  Perhaps tourists don't come back because in Paris, the customer is not king. During the month of August you will be hard pressed to find stores open even for your daily baguette, much less to find a pizza.  Where have they all gone?  Parisians notoriously find their way to the beach during the month of August leaving the few lunch places open for business slammed at lunch time.   This place is closed the entire month of August.  Boo.  

4. White pizzas are as popular as red sauce 

White pizzas are gaining some traction in the U.S. but in France it’s been mainstream for a while.  Menus are organized simply into cream-based pizzas and tomato based pizzas.  On the cream-based pizzas, toppings tend to get scarily lavish which brings me to my next point…

5. Unthinkably caloric toppings

Potatos, bacon, cream and cheese is a completely normal topping combination at a pizzeria in Paris (and they call Americans fat??) Truth be told, French people love their white carbs, salted butter and cream. I’m told this is why they need red wine, to cancel it all out. One of my favorite high-calorie pizzas comes from the South of France where they are known for putting tiny raviolis filled with cream sandwiched between a layer of cream and cheese. It’s called pizza raviole and it's as delicious as it is redundant. Next to it is a pizza with bacon and potatoes.

Until next time when I'll be reporting from the Netherlands.  Pizza be with you!