Canadian Pizza Magazine

Cowabunga says cheese!

By Colleen Cross   

Features Business and Operations Trends cheese

Savvy Hamilton, Ont., pizzeria earns ‘World’s Best Cheese Pizza Slice’ kudos

PHOTO: JUSTIN MARK VINLUAN, INSTAGRAM @ JUSTINMARKVINLUAN

For Cowabunga Pizzeria owners Justin Tanada and (Tan Tuong) Andy Huynh, cowabunga means fun.

In its relatively short history, the pizzeria in Hamilton, Ont., has been busy and highly successful. Never more so than now, fresh from bringing home the title of “World’s Best Cheese Pizza Slice” at the International Pizza Expo (click here for highlights of the event) in Las Vegas.

Cowabunga officially opened October 2020 in a busy suburb on Hamilton Mountain in 2020 in a cozy take-out/pick-up spot.

Big cheese
“The cheese pizza is not a bestseller on the menu,” Tanada says. “When we saw that category come up, we wanted to create the best cheese slice we could possibly make.”

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 Winning the coveted title of World’s Best Cheese Pizza Slice at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas in March was especially sweet because they overcame big challenges to win it. 

Their checked luggage carrying their fermented and well-rested dough and most of their ingredients went missing during the flight to Vegas. Fortunately, thinking two steps ahead, they had packed some of the dough in their carry-on luggage. 

That back-up dough earned Huynh and Cowabunga the coveted title.

When the team learned Huynh would be competing again the next day in the prestigious Pizza Maker of the Year final competition, they had to decide whether to make dough that needed to be ready in 24 hours. “We decided to call our team member to fly down and bring our dough from Canada. We like to ferment our dough for 72 hours,” Huynh says. “It was definitely exciting and fun to have that many eyes at the convention centre to watch me,” the accomplished chef says. “I tried to get a little creative with the pizza.”

Tanada says, “I think the Expo is a great experience. It was exciting watching Andy in the finals. It’s tough competition. It’s no joke. It means a lot.”

Cowabunga Pizzeria now has a second location called Cowabunga+ with seating, a full bar and appetizers menu.

They have about 25-30 staff. “We are grateful to them for showing up for us and holding down the fort,” Tanada says.

Huynh says attention to detail and ingredients make a great cheese pizza: “It’s not the easiest to master but once you have all those variables down, once you have those those techniuqes down, you can really do something.”

“We built our pizza similar to what we built here at Cowabunga [using mozzarella and fior di latte]. I was more focused on the execution of the dough and the baking of the pizza. Our sourdough starter definitely added a lot of flavour.”


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