If you’ve never attended an International Pizza Expo before, you’re probably unaware of the myriad of competitions that take place during the four-day event. One of the most popular is the International Pizza Challenge, a culinary competition pitting pizzerias’ top sellers against one another in a battle for taste supremacy.
I emceed the challenge for the first time last year. While I’ve attended Pizza Expos for 10 years, this was my first in-depth look at the inner workings of the event. I ate a LOT of pizza –– and I do mean a lot. Although I wasn’t a judge, I’d venture to guess I snagged a taste of more than 30 entries and there’s plenty of talent out there.
One of the biggest precursors to the IPC was Pizza Festiva! Here, potential entrants submitted their own pizza recipes to Pizza Today and Pizza Expo. A panel of judges evaluated the entries and pulled the top ones for taste testing. We pulled the very best and invited the top finalists to compete at International Pizza Expo, with the winner taking home the Pizza Maker of the Year award. It was prestigious, sure, but what we found was that many operators either didn’t want to submit their full recipes or simply didn’t take the time to write them down. And many offer proprietary ingredients that we simply couldn’t recreate in a test kitchen, so the judges weren’t getting a true taste of what a pizza should taste like.
If you’re competing in the IPC this year, we wish you luck. If you want to know what the judges are looking for, check out columnist Scott Wiener’s story here. As an IPC judge, he offers an insider’s look at how to get the best results from your entry. Me? I’m hosting again this year, so save me a slice of your pizza!