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Spencer Glenn Wins Grand Prize of $20,000 in Real California Pizza Contest

Glenn's "Life Is Gourd" pizza, representing the Plant-Forward category, took overall top honors, while Leah Scurto won the Real Californian category with her Nico Pie.

  • The Real California Pizza Contest, sponsored by the California Milk Advisory Board, was a national search for the best pizza recipes using California cheese.
  • Spencer Glenn’s winning “Life Is Gourd” pizza featured an Asiago/Roman blend, Toma and mozzarella with fried baby sage leaves, pomegranate arils and pistachios.

Related: Thinking like a pizza competition judge

After nine chefs spent a competitive day crafting and working pizza dough, developing unique toppings and sauces, and combining innovative blends of California cheeses, the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) on Oct. 20 recognized two champions in the 2021 Real California Pizza Contest, a national search for the best pizza recipes using Real California Cheese.

Spencer Glenn of Pizza My Heart, located in Pacific Grove, California, took home the grand prize for his Life Is Gourd pie, representing the Plant-Forward category. Inspired by a recipe shared with his late grandfather, the pizza featured a California Asiago/Romano blend, Toma and mozzarella along with fried baby sage leaves, pomegranate arils and pistachios.

Glenn also had the winning pizza in the Cal-Mex category. His Elote con Chorizo pizza paid tasteful homage to traditional Mexican street corn, pairing California Oaxaca, crema, and cotija with fresh chorizo and tangy Tajin. Glenn received $5,000 for winning each category and an additional $10,000 for the grand prize distinction, for a total of $20,000.

Spencer Glenn’s Elote con Chorizo won the Cal-Mex category.

The REAL California category winner was Chef Leah Scurto, the owner of PizzaLeah in Windsor, California, for her innovative Nico Pie, which used multiple cheeses from California to complement two quintessential Golden State produce items: artichokes and garlic. The CMAB awarded Scurto $5,000 for her winning pizza.

The seven other finalists received $500 each for reaching the bake-off finals.

“This year’s contest highlighted several top trends in foodservice,” said Mike Gallagher, business and market development consultant for the CMAB. “The finalists impressed the judges with unique recipes, bold interpretations within our innovative categories, and an overarching commitment to the creative use of California dairy throughout each pizza.”

The third annual Real California Pizza Contest, which was held at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Copia in Napa, Calif., was open to professional chefs and culinary students across the U.S.

A renowned panel of judges presided over the contest: Tony Gemignani, 13-time World Pizza Champion; Glenn Cybulski, certified pizzaiolo and award-winning executive chef; and Ricky Webster, founder of Rind & Wheat Bakery in Spokane, Washington and the 2020 RCPC Grand Prize Winner. The judges based their scores on a variety of factors, including taste, texture and the inventive use of cheeses made with Real California Milk.

“When the pizza industry is healthy, the California dairy industry is healthy,” said John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB. “As the No. 1 producer of milk and mozzarella, so much of our business goes into pizza. It’s important for California to advance and innovate in the pizza category.”

The full list of finalists for the 2021 Real California Pizza Contest is as follows:

Plant-Forward

  • Spencer Glenn

    Grand Prize and Category Winner: Spencer Glenn, a professional chef from Pacific Grove, California, works at Pizza My Heart.

  • Michael Bacon, a professional chef from Aberdeen, South Dakota, is the GM at Danger von Dempsey’s Pizzeria & Brewhaus.
  • Patrick Costa, a professional chef from Los Angeles, is owner of De La Nonna.
  • Lauren Katz, a professional chef from Ashburn, Virginia, is the executive pastry chef and recipe developer at The Difference Baker.

The REAL Californian 

  • Leah Scurto

    Category Winner: Leah Scurto, a professional chef from Windsor, California, is the owner of PizzaLeah.

  • Cliff Buchanan, a professional chef from Bodega, California, is the owner of Pizza Bodega.
  • Lauren Katz, a professional chef from Ashburn, Virginia, is the executive pastry chef and recipe developer at The Difference Baker.
  • Dean Nole, a professional chef from New Hartford, New York, is the co-owner, with his brother Jason, of Café CaNole.

Cal-Mex

  • Category Winner: Spencer Glenn, a professional chef from Pacific Grove, California, works at Pizza My Heart.
  • Steven Barrantes, a professional chef from San Jose, California, is the owner of Slice of Homage.
  • Cliff Buchanan, a professional chef from Bodega, California, is the owner of Pizza Bodega.
  • Lars Smith, a professional chef from Palo Alto, California, is the owner of State of Mind Public House and Pizzeria.

Watch the complete video of the bake-off finals and the awards presentation below: