Canadian Pizza Magazine

Video: Summit excitement!

By Canadian Pizza   

News Canadian pizza chef of the year canadian pizza magazine canadian pizza summit chef of the year dean litster faema canada giuseppe cortinovis video

New venue, talented chefs and industry experts refresh our annual industry event

James Timothy of Zen’Za Pizzeria in London, Ont., (in the yellow checked shirt) triumphed in the Great Pizza Box Fold-Off. Here he poses with fellow folders Dean Litster (Armando's Pizza), Lucy Lorefice and Sabrina Lorefice (Trecce, in Toronto). PHOTOS BY NAOMI SZEBEN

It was a new name and a location for our annual industry event this year – to give pizzeria operators a relaxed setting for networking and Chef of the Year competitors a state-of-the-art kitchen in which to craft their innovative pizzas.

Talented pizza makers, knowledgeable industry suppliers and business experts – 120 attendees – gathered in Faema Canada’s sleek Dupont Street showroom, home of the Faema Culinary Academy. A century ago, the building was a Ford car plant where vehicles were built (first floor), finished (second floor – where our pizzas were finished!) and tested on a track (third floor). The building retains its industrial look with cement floors and metal fixtures, and the modern addition of floor-to-ceiling windows to let in lots of natural light. It made for a fun setting to catch up with old friends and make some new ones!

Through a glass partition attendees and exhibitors had the chance to watch 20 adrenalin-fuelled pizza chefs at work.

This year two winners shared the title of Chef of the Year. Chef of the Year (Traditional) is Giuseppe Cortinovis of Ignite Pizzeria in Vancouver. Chef of the Year (Open) is Dean Litster of Armando’s Pizza in Windsor, Ont.


Cortinovis’ winning pizza, The Queen, was a twist on the Margherita, while Litster’s winning entry was a creative pizza he dubbed The Dean Martin. (Look for profiles of our top chefs in upcoming issues of Canadian Pizza.)

Giorgio Taverniti of Frank’s Pizza House in Toronto took second place in the Traditional; Giovanni Campisi of Casa Mia Ristorante in Niagara Falls took third place.

Marco Caveglia of Tuscan Wolf Pizzeria in Whitby, Ont., took second place in the Open; Maurizio Mascioli of Maurizio’s Inc. in Parry Sound, Ont., took third place.

James Timothy of Zen’Za Pizzeria in London, Ont., triumphed in the Great Pizza Box Fold-Off after folding 10 large boxes in one minute, 3.7 seconds.

When not watching the kitchen, attendees looked at products and services from vendors, spun Galbani’s trivia wheel, talked flour options with Ardent Mills, and scored some of dozens of cans tomato sauce Escalon/Heinz was giving away. They also heard speakers on hiring options, leasing, delivery services and millennials’ pizza preferences.

Showgoers networked over complimentary lunch while, back in the kitchen, Galbani corporate chef Julia Wycliffe baked pizzas using the company’s cheeses.

Faema Canada, Platinum sponsors of the event, had a vast array of coffee equipment on display and its Moretti Forni ovens – Moretti Forni Amalfi, Moretti Forni P120E and Ceky Granvolta – hard at work in the Chef of the Year competition.

Judges Joe Leroux of Amadio’s Pizza in Port Credit, Ont.; Roberto Vergalito of Roberto’s Pizza Passion in St. Catharines, Ont.; Tom Stankiewicz of Bondi’s Pizza in London, Ont.; Kyle Rindinella of Enoteca Sociale in Toronto; and Rocco Agostino of Pizzeria Libretto and Enoteca Sociale in Toronto, had their work cut out assessing 20 pizzas and they did it well!

While flour was tossed, dough rolled and pizzas finished with gusto, across the floor, operators keen to gain an advantage for their pizzerias heard informative talks by industry experts.

Dale Willerton, founder of The Lease Coach, a service that helps small businesses negotiate real estate transactions, went through an eye-opening list of mistakes to avoid when considering lease renewal. The longtime lawyer said he has seen too many operators negotiate on just one property and fail to let themselves be pursued by landlords as a desirable tenant. “You are the customer in this situation,” Willerton told operators, challenging them to imagine the shoe on the other foot: “When was the last time a pizza customer begged you to buy your pizza?”

Another mistake is not asking for more than you want or need, he said. Doing so slows down the process, and gives you, the operator, an advantage. “You have to tell people what you want,” he added.

And believe it or not, looking too successful can be a problem, said Willerton, who cautioned operators to be careful when a landlord asks you to report sales. Sales numbers can be deceiving when not viewed in the context of the labour market; for example, higher sales could be the result of a price hike meant to accommodate a higher mandatory minimum wage.

Willerton gave away copies of his book, Negotiating Commercial Leases & Renewals For Dummies and counselled operators one on one.

David Coletto joined us to talk about the millennial mindset. Coletto is chief executive officer of Abacus Data, a firm that carries out research for businesses through polling and analyzes the findings. He reminded us that Canadians aged 20 to 40 now outnumber baby boomers in Canada.

Some things he told us about millennials: they are more the same than they are different from older generations. They key difference, and the one operators need to remember, is that operators must market, sell and communicate differently when it comes to millennial customers. Know that there are more women getting post-secondary educations and 42 per cent of men do most of the cooking in households. There are many new households being formed, with millennials moving out from their parents’ homes. Consumers have more power than before and this amplifies both the good and the bad, Coletto said. Most importantly for marketing purposes is to use social media, as millennials are addicted to being connected.

Happily for pizzerias, millennials love pizza: 59 per cent of millennials say they love pizza compared to 47 per cent of generation X and 43 per cent of baby boomers. And a third of millennials say they are eating more pizza than last year. These findings are opportunities for the industry, Coletto said.

So how do you make your business millennial-friendly? Tell people the story of the food. People are looking for authenticity, which can mean different things to different people.

  1. Tell your story: Be genuine, be original, and present an “honest interpretation” of a classic. In other words, you don’t have to learn pizza making in Italy in order to serve an authentic version of it.
  2. Connect: If you’re not online, you don’t exist to customers under 40, many of whom “Ask Google” to find nearby pizzerias.
  3. Be aware of disruption: Meal kits, for example, are popular and a source of competition. Seven per cent subscribe to meal kits, eight per cent said they are likely to subscribe. Most are happy with the kits they receive.

Coletto urged operators to remember that people are not in such a rush they won’t wait for their pizza if they have that good overall experience. “Food unites us,” he said. “It’s a social experience.”

Many pizzerias express frustration with the process of finding and keeping great workers. Service Canada provided a program overview to review eligibility requirements and the Labour Market Impact Assessment application process. The Assessment is the first step toward applying to hire a Temporary Foreign Worker. It’s the way you demonstrate there is a need in your industry and that you have exhausted all efforts to hire Canadian workers.

Megan Gretton and Thomas Moorcroft, senior program development officers with Service Canada, told operators about the process and also the various programs available to businesses to help them fill their staffing needs.

When applying for a Labour Market Impact Assessment, make sure your application is complete, they advised. Keep an original copy of the application and the required documentation. You must show your job ads, indicate how long you have advertised them and your employment contract. When hiring below the median wage, you must provide housing and transportation and there is a cap on the number of workers you can hire, they said.

Higher-wage stream requests require at least three recruitment activities. These may include posting in a national job bank and using a job-match tool available for the Employment and Social Development Canada Job Bank to invite those who match qualifications to apply for the position you advertise.

There are other programs out there to help you find good employees, such as the Federal Skilled Trades Programs, the Global Talent Stream and Express Entry.

Questions to ask yourself: Is there an urgent need to hire an foreign worker? Do your needs match the skills out there? Will there be a positive, neutral or negative effect from this hire? Reasonable efforts must be made to hire internally, the representatives said.

Mike von Massow had lots to say about the changing delivery landscape and how pizzerias can adapt to it. Von Massow, an associate professor in Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of Guelph, set out the pros and cons of restaurants using third-party delivery services. They can be a cost-effective way for businesses – new businesses especially – to provide quality delivery service with a relatively low investment, von Massow said. The challenge, can be summed up as a loss of control for operators over the service provided and the final product delivered.

Von Massow urged operators who are worried about heavy competition to stay sharp but not necessarily fundamentally change what they’re doing. “Ask yourself if you can offer another alternative,” he said. Maybe the answer is to change not how but what you deliver, he added.

Ask yourself if you’re offering what your customers want; that is, do you need to expand or tweak your menu rather than change your delivery methods? Bear in mind, most of us don’t want more choices; we want different choices, he said – and that’s an important distinction. When customers get overwhelmed when faced with, for example, 37 kinds of mustard, they default to the easiest choice and often that’s the product they bought last time or the place they ordered from last time. Give people the choices that are relevant to them, von Massow advised.

Restaurants have an advantage over other types of businesses because many already deliver. You can get your product messages out to customers by talking to them directly – the most effective way, he suggested. Advertising via the pizza box and having a presence on the internet are great ways to do this.

What can operators do to make the most of interest in eating less red meat? Offer plant-based ingredients, use insect-based flour (it’s mainstream now), and provide not just a healthy environment but also a novel product or experience. People are much more likely these days to experiment with new foods at a restaurant, rather than at home, he said.

Canadian Pizza sends a heartfelt thanks to our industry partners for their support of this event and the industry: Platinum sponsor and host Moretti Forni distributed by Faema Canada, Gold sponsors Ardent Mills and Parmalat/Galbani, and Silver sponsor Escalon Premier Brands/Heinz, as well as our amazing exhibitors, Burke Corporation, Lallemand, Lesaffre, Mealsy, On Green Go Solutions, Reiser, Salamina Foods, Sugardale, Supremex (DuraBox), Tony’s Cheese/Jesse Tree Fine Foods, Uber Eats and U Eat.

Check out this video of the event!

Stay tuned for news of next year’s event on, our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn pages, and in Canadian Pizza magazine.

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