Two members of the U.S. Pizza Team are among the 12 finalists chosen for the 2023 Real California Pizza Contest (RCPC), the fifth annual nationwide search for the best foodservice pizza recipes that make innovative use of Real California cow’s milk cheeses.

The contest is produced by the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB). At stake is $30,000 in prize money as well as the prestige of winning one of the country’s top pizza competitions.

U.S. Pizza Team members making the cut are Giovanne Labbate, owner of Tievoli Pizza Bar in Palatine, Illinois, and Lars Smith, owner of State of Mind Public House and Pizzeria, with locations in Los Altos and Redwood City, California, as well as State of Mind Slice House in Palo Alto, California.

Related: Meet the winners of the 2022 Real California Recipe Contest

Also among the finalists is renowned baker and James Beard Award-winning author Peter Reinhart, who wrote American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza.

The finalists will compete in three categories during a live bake-off event on August 2 at the Culinary Institute of America’s Copia campus in Napa, California. Each category winner will receive $5,000 and the grand prize winner, selected from the three category winners, will win an additional $10,000. Remaining finalists each will receive $500.

The 2023 RCPC finalists are:

Cal-Mex Category
Ahmad Butler, MillerButler, San Pedro, California
Bill Crawford, Righteous Slice, Rexburg, Idaho
Chris Decker, Truly Pizza, Dana Point, California
Marcus Medina, Hella Pie Pizza, Tracy, California

Plant-Forward Category
Audrey Kelly, Audrey Jane’s Pizza Garage, Boulder, Colorado
Giovanni Labbate, Tievoli Pizza Bar, Palatine, Illinois
Jordan Lawson, La Fiamma Wood Fire Pizza, Bellingham, Washington
Lars Smith, State of Mind Public House, Los Altos, California

The REAL Californian Category
Charles Cullison, Charlie’s Pizzeria, Kingman, Arizona
Matt Hutchinson, Pizaro’s Pizza Napoletana, Houston, Texas
Peter Reinhart, Johnson & Wales University, Charlotte, North Carolina
Vincent Sbarro, Vinnie’s Pizzeria & Forno di Sbarro, Concord, California

“Pizza’s global appeal and ability to highlight a wide range of flavors, cuisines and inspiration is reflected in this year’s entries,” said Mike Gallagher, business and market development consultant for the CMAB. “We’re inspired by the creativity and innovation that went into these recipes, which represent a spectrum of ingredients and flavor combinations, all united by California cheeses.”

“As the nation’s leading producer of mozzarella cheese and second largest cheese producer, the CMAB recognizes that pizza is an important category for our foodservice business,” Gallagher added. “We are thrilled to have such a diverse breadth of culinary backgrounds and pizzaiolo experience in the finalist group and are looking forward to seeing them in action.”

In the bake-off finals event, finalists will prepare and bake their entries on-site for blind evaluation by a panel of expert judges, which includes pizza chef/restaurateur Tony Gemignani; Glenn Cybulski, a certified pizzaiolo and award-winning executive chef; and David Jacobson, the 2022 RCPC Grand Prize Winner. The judges chose the 12 finalists from more than 150 blind-judged entries from throughout the U.S.

For additional details on the bake-off, chef finalists and CMAB’s foodservice support, click here.

Pizza News, State of Mind Public House