New this year was the Artisan Bakery Expo held in conjunction with the Pizza Expo. All pizza makers are bakers and the congregation of 40 baking suppliers and services, held in the same hall as the Pizza Expo, was a natural fit for operators, who wanted to learn more about the baking and pastry side, such as Angie Risi of Maria’s Pizza West in Brantford, Ont., a baker herself. "Knowing there was a baking show as well helped us make the decision to come to Expo this year," Risi said.
The competition floor changed a little as well, with the gluten-free competition (started in 2014) absent and the Roman competition a new addition.
Our Chefs of the Year Dean Litster and Giuseppe Cortinovis did Canada proud amid tough competition. Litster finished fourth in the Pan division with his pizza, The Dean Martin (watch for a profile of Litster in our next issue of Canadian Pizza). Cortinovis finished second in the international section of the Traditional division.
Third in that same category was fellow British Columbian Aaron Gehrman, owner of Emilio Finatti Pizzeria in White Rock, B.C.
Mirko D’Agata of Groupe No. 900 Pizzeria Napoletana in Montreal finished second in the Napoletana division.
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Renowned chef Chris Bianco, owner of Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, Ariz., inspired a standing-room only crowd during his keynote address and followed up with a lively meatball-making demonstration interspersed with insights about food and the industry.
Bianco, who came out with a book about his experiences entitled Pizza, Pasta, and Other Food I Like, cooked in an informal, freewheeling style. He invited questions from the audience and there were some good ones. When asked "Is vegan a trend the pizza industry must satisfy?" Bianco said, “It’s a slippery slope when you start making changes without doing all the thoroughness required." He recommended moderation and thoughtful experimention: "If you change one thing, you havce to change something else to adjust."
A panel talk featuring two married couples gave attendees tips on how to combine love and work successfully. Power couples Melissa and Eric Rickman of Wholly Stomboli near Denver, Colo., and Pasquale and Giovanna Di Diana of Bacci Pizzerias in Chicago, testified to the amount of work required, the need to separate responsibilities and the satisfaction found in working as a team. "No one else in the world knows how much I want to succeed," Melissa Rickman said, summing up the challenges and the rewards.
Many Canadians stopped by the Canadian Pizza booth and for that we thank you. This is one of the few chances we get to visit in person (the other is the Canadian Pizza Summit) and we value the connection with readers!
Here is a small sampling of new products found on the show floor: PizzaCloud, an internet-based system to keep shops running when phone and web ordering are down; the Arrezzio pizza box available through Sysco that splits in two to hold leftovers; pizza jerky in five flavours by Meatheads Snack Co. and Organizza; the Wellbake dough-sheeting line, developed in Barrie, Ont., and ideally suited to pizzeria operation with several locations; the Countertop Oven by XLT Grill; Bob's Red Mill's cassava flour; Roastworks' line of roasted IQF vegetables and fruits from J.R. Simplot Company; the IPourIt beer wall (working on expanding into Canada); and a gluten-free cookbook called No Gluten, No Porblem Pizza by Kelli and Peter Bronski.
After three days at this buzzing industry event, it was easy to see how learning pizza trends and techniques and exchanging stories with fellow operators can refresh and profit a pizzeria.
Watch for more highlights in the April/May issue of Canadian Pizza magazine. Meanwhile, check out these photo highlights in our Facebook gallery. Share with others and follow us while you're there!