Eight finalists have been selected to go head-to-head in the 2024 Real California Pizza Contest, produced by the California Milk Advisory Board and taking place on August 7 at the Culinary Institute of America at Copia in Napa, California.

The sixth annual contest will search for the best foodservice pizza recipes showcasing innovative uses of Real California cow’s milk cheeses. The prize pool totals $28,500 for the prestigious contest.

The finalists for the 2024 Real California Pizza Contest largely hail from California, with a few exceptions. Here’s a look:

Protein Category
Eddie Stalewski, Mercurio’s, Pittsburgh
Jose Valverde, Zorba’s Pizza, Millbrae, California
Leith Leiser-Miller, Psychic Pie, Sebastopol, California
Jay Falk, Caliente Pizza & Draft House, Pittsburgh

Produce Category
Michael Vakneen, Truly Pizza, Dana Point, California
Doug Dellaccio, Wayfarer Bread, La Jolla, California
Constantino Anezinos, Zorba’s Pizza, Millbrae, California
Ray Cullison, Charlie’s Pizzeria, Kingman, Arizona

Related: This one pizza recipe won $15,000 for an Idaho restaurateur

The finalists will compete in a live bake-off event, and the winner in each category will receive $7,500. Additionally, a special Three-Cheese Pizza competition will see the eight finalists paired off into teams to compete for another $7,500 prize.

“Each year we evolve the Real California Pizza Contest to keep up with the creativity of the pizza community,” said Mike Gallagher, business and market development consultant for the CMAB. “The two new main categories, Protein and Produce, allow unlimited opportunities to explore with our California cow’s milk cheeses. We’re also excited about the three-cheese team competition, which will add a little drama to the bake-off event with competitors collaborating to present their very best version of this simple yet ultimately marketable pie.”

For the Protein category, contestants are challenged to pair one to three meats with Real California mozzarella and other Real California cheeses. In the Produce competition, they will get innovative using the fresh flavors from one to three plants, fruits, nuts, beans or legumes in combination with mozz and other California cheeses.

Entries in the Three-Cheese Pizza bake-off feature up to three cheeses made from Real California Milk, including mozzarella

judging the bake-off finals will be a panel of pizza experts, including renowned pizzaiolo and author Tony Gemignani; Glenn Cybulski, a certified pizzaiolo and award-winning executive chef; and Bill Crawford, the 2023 RCPC grand prize winner and owner of Righteous Slice in Idaho. The judges chose the eight finalists from more than 180 recipe entries from throughout the United States.

Additional details on the bake-off, chef finalists and CMAB’s foodservice partnership support are available at Real California Pizza Contest.

Pizza News