Leah Scurto, owner of PizzaLeah in Windsor, California, showed her pizza-making stuff on Hulu’s Best in Dough series in 2022.

Photo courtesy of Hulu
Pizza News

Leah Scurto Wins Pizzaioli Tournament of Champions

She was one of two U.S. Pizza Team members who earned top prizes in an event presented by the California Milk Advisory Board.

Chef Leah Scurto, owner of PizzaLeah in Windsor, California and member of the U.S. Pizza Team (USPT), was crowned the grand prize winner of the Real California Pizza Contest (RCPC) Tournament of Champions, held on Tuesday, October 17, at the Culinary Institute of America’s (CIA) Copia campus in Napa, California.

Meanwhile, another USPT member, David Jacobson, teamed up with a fellow contestant in a tie for top honors in the Three-Cheese Pizza Bake-Off. Competing on the other tie-for-a-win team was none other than Scurto, making her a winner in both contests.

Scurto took on 10 past RCPC champions in the Tournament of Champions event, presented by the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) and highlighting cow’s milk cheeses from California. In addition to being named the grand prize winner, she also won an all-expense-paid trip to Italy to compete as a CMAB-sponsored chef in the 2024 Caputo Cup Pizza competition.

Scurto won the Tournament of Champions with a pizza called The Nut-torius F.I.G. Scurto, a sweet ode to the signature California fruit. It features Real California mozzarella, fontina and feta cheeses to balance fresh black mission figs, crispy Italian sausage, minced garlic and olive oil. It’s topped with raw chopped almonds and aromatic julienned sage leaves.

This photo shows a pizza topped with several cheeses, figs, Italian sausage, almonds and other ingredients.

Scurto is a two-time Real California Pizza Contest champ. She won the REAL Californian category in 2021 and the Plant-Forward category in 2022.

The nine other returning champions each received $1,000 for their participation in the invitational bake-off.

Following the main competition, the 10 chefs competed in the separate Three-Cheese Pizza Bake-off, where they were randomly paired and charged with crafting a signature three-cheese pizza using pre-selected cheeses made with Real California milk.

Two chef teams, each of which included a U.S. Pizza Team member, tied for the highest score. Scurto and Bill Crawford of Rexburg, Idaho, highlighted California mozzarella, dry Jack and provolone in their winning pie.

This photo shows a pizza topped with various cheeses.
Leah Scurto and Bill Crawford teamed up on a pizza that tied for first in the Three Cheese Bake-Off.

The other winning team consisted of Jacobson, who hails from Oakland, California, and Spencer Glenn of Monterey, California. They featured mozzarella, ricotta and truffle-infused toma on their winning entry.

All four chefs took home $1,500 for their Three-Cheese Pizza Bake-off win.

This is a white pizza topped with floral-like scoops of ricotta cheese.
David Jacobson and Spencer Glenn’s pizza was the other winner of the Three Cheese Bake-Off.

“We are always impressed with the vision and creativity of our chef community, and this was no exception,” said Mike Gallagher, business and market development consultant for the CMAB. “While we crowned one Real California Pizza Grand Champion, each returning champion brought a unique lens to their interpretation of a pizza representative of the Golden State. Ultimately, California cheese and dairy products are the real winner in this showcase of how they taste and perform with some of the state’s most iconic ingredients.”

The competition was judged by a distinguished panel of pizza experts including Tony Gemignani, owner of 22 culinary concepts; certified pizzaiolo and award-winning executive chef Glenn Cybulski; and award-winning pizzaiola and 2019 Caputo Cup Champion Laura Meyer.

Judges based scores on a range of factors, focusing on the inventive use of cheeses made with Real California dairy, taste, texture and presentation.

“California is the nation’s No. 1 producer of milk and mozzarella, so the pizza industry is very important to our business,” said John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB. “We are committed to remaining national leaders in producing dairy products that pizza chefs trust nationwide.”

The full list of participants in the 2023 Real California Pizza Contest Tournament of Champions:

  • Tournament of Champions Grand Prize Winner: Leah Scurto, 2021 & 2022 Category Winner, Windsor, Calif.
  • Bill Crawford, 2023 Grand Prize Winner, Rexburg, Idaho
  • David Jacobson, 2022 Grand Prize Winner, Oakland, Calif.
  • Thomas Garnick, 2019 Grand Prize Winner, Tucson, Ariz.
  • Spencer Glenn, 2021 Grand Prize Winner, Monterey, Calif.
  • Giovanni Labbate, 2019 & 2023 Category Winner, Palatine, Ill.
  • Marcus Medina, 2022 Category Winner, Tracy, Calif.
  • Lars Smith, 2020 Category Winner, Los Altos, Calif.
  • Vincent Sbarro, 2023 Category Winner, Concord, Calif.
  • Ricky Webster, 2020 Grand Prize Winner, Spokane, Wash.

The California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB), an instrumentality of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, is funded by the state’s dairy farm families who lead the nation in sustainable dairy farming practices. With a vision to nourish the world with the wholesome goodness of Real California Milk, the CMAB’s programs focus on increasing demand for California’s sustainable dairy products in the state, across the U.S. and around the world through advertising, public relations, research, and retail and foodservice promotional programs.

The Foodservice Division of the CMAB supports foodservice operators and distributors that use Real California dairy products. The CMAB offers marketing and promotional support for foodservice operators that purchase dairy products with the Real California Milk seal, which means they are made with 100% milk from California’s more than 1,100 family dairy farms, using some of the most sustainable dairy practices in the nation.