Pizza Without Borders - Competition Heats Up in the Eastern Bloc
As more pizza competitions and associations pop up in Russia, Bulgaria and Poland, the quality of pizza and prestige of the pizzaiolo continues to rise.
Pizza Competitions for Everyone
“Pizza competitions should be free and open to everyone,” says Arkadiy Gritsevskiy, president of the Russian Freestyle Pizza Federation and multi-restaurant owner. Gritsevskiy organized the first pizza competition at the Kazan HoReCa show this year based on this altruistic philosophy. Sponsors and government subsidies enabled his federation to waive competition fees and bring in international judges (including myself) to the Kazan HoReCa show. Guests from abroad received top-notch hospitality day and night, including luxury car transport and personal translators. The competition, a first for the federation, was small but successful, with top honors in both Freestyle Acrobatics and Classica going to Fedor Titenko from La Famiglia restaurant in Kazan.
PMQ Russia Engages the Industry
Vladimir Davydov, publisher of PMQ’s independent magazine partner in Russia, teamed up with the Scuola Italiana Pizzaioli Russia to produce the Russian Pizza Championships again this year at the 20th annual PIR Expo. The competition was modeled after the World Pizza Championships (WPC) in Parma and included seven categories: Classica, Pizza Pala, Pizza Teglia, Pizza a Due, Freestyle Acrobatics and Fastest Pizza Maker.
Maria Beknazarova, who works at Scrocchiarella in Moscow, claimed first place in Classica, which qualified her to compete with the Russian Pizza Team at next spring’s WPC event in Italy.
Davydov’s magazine is also holding bimonthly conferences to educate the pizza market. The conferences feature speakers from the country’s manufacturers and distributors along with tastings and demonstrations of vendors’ products. In November, they ramped up the excitement by adding pizza eating contests, including a fastest eating category and a challenge involving spicy pizzas dressed with Tabasco sauce.
The Bulgarian Association of Pizzaioli
The International Pizza Championships, organized by the Bulgarian Association of Pizzaioli, took place at Interfood & Drink, the biggest hospitality show in Bulgaria. The competition welcomed judges from five countries: Russia, Poland, the United States, Greece and Italy. Radostin Kiryazov and Anatolii Kolev, the association’s organizers and founders, are culinary teachers at Metro Academy in Sofia.
The Expo was also the launching point for Kiryazov’s new recipe book, Pane Pizza e Passione. Kiryazov says he has made it his mission to bring pizza to the next level in Bulgaria. “There are a lot of Italians in Bulgaria due to the fashion industry and low taxes,” says Kiryazov. “But it’s not until the last seven or eight years that the quality of pizza has improved, as well as access to classes and information.”
First-place winners in the Bulgarian contest came from Italy (Giordano Valentini) and London (Osama Sraidi), while several from Poland also took home prizes. Marcin Kozłowski, Polish pizza judge and a distributor of Italian food in Poland, brought over the competitors from Poland and says he plans to form a pizza association there, too.