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Published: Saturday, 9/20/2003

Pizza contest is a U.S. team tryout

The crust, the sauce, and the cheese are basic to pizza. But those three elements can be interwoven in a variety of ways, as evidenced at the pizza contest held during Sofo Foods Expo 2003.

Twelve pizza restaurants from Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana participated in the annual contest held last Sunday during the two-day trade show. But this year the stakes were higher: The winner received a place on the U.S. Pizza Team and will go to Italy to compete in the World Pizza Championship March 29-31.

First place went to Casa Restaurant Group and Keith Yonker of Fort Wayne, Ind., for Grilled Primavera Pizza.

“The grilled dough has an Old World taste,” he told the seven judges as he prepared his pizza.

Smoked mozzarella went on top of the pre-grilled crust, followed by yellow tomato slices, which are less acidic. Then thin slices of roasted eggplant, zucchini, and yellow squash were layered over the top of the pizza. Roasted red pepper, roasted onion, and portobello mushrooms came next, drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette and topped with grated parmesan and artichokes.

After the pizza was baked, it was topped with thinly sliced tomato and shaved romano cheese. The crust had crunch and it cut easily.

Second place went to Julie's Family Pizza and Larry Goldsmith of Avilla, Ind. His entry was Seafood Pizza made with shrimp, lobster, fresh scallops, imitation crab, artichoke hearts, feta cheese, provolone cheese, fresh spinach and basil, and home-growntomatoes. The picturesque crust was pinched. The pizza was baked in a deep-dish pan; when cut, the slices were filled with big chunks of seafood.

Martini's Pizza and Rich Munda of Kalamazoo, Mich., took third place. The handmade dough yields a cornmeal crust that is usually baked in a stone oven. (For the contest, a conveyor oven was used for all entries.) Martini's entry was topped with a thyme-flavored pizza sauce, red pepper, onion, yellow tomatoes, mushrooms, mozzarella, and homemade Italian sausage, all sprinkled with black pepper and oregano.

There were several vegetarian pizzas, chicken pizzas, and a bruschetta pizza made with fresh garlic.

Dayton's Original Pizza Factory with Bill Daniels of Dayton was the defending champion. He made the Incredible Factory Special with eight toppings including pepperoni, sausage, and black olives.

Guidelines for contestants were to make a specialty gourmet pizza that was on their menu. The entries were judged on taste, visual presentation, practicality, marketability, and originality.

Sofo Foods' annual food show also features food seminars, menu ideas, and food manufacturers' booths for food service customers in the restaurant industry.

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I was happy to be among the foodies from Michigan and Ohio on Monday who attended a one-of-a-kind food conference. The Knight-Wallace Fellows at the University of Michigan hosted a conference on the impact of journalism on how Americans eat.

Journalists, UM faculty, and experts from across the country gathered under a tent pitched between the Kerrytown Market and the Ann Arbor Farmers' Market in the city's Kerrytown district.

Topics included food and American culture, obesity and childhood obesity, nutrition, slow food, food distribution and public policy, local foods, and the culture out of which food comes.

Among the distinguished panel of 12 were Colman Andrews, editor of Saveur; Carol Haddix of the Chicago Tribune; Lynne Rossetto Kasper, host of Minnesota Public Radio's The Splendid Table; and executive chef Ann Cooper, director of wellness and nutrition of the Ross School in East Hampton, N.Y.

In the coming weeks, Blade readers will be seeing more about this fascinating discussion of food, how it affects health and public policy, and what foods consumers buy and prepare for the American table.

To start, watch for Tuesday's food story on Ms. Kasper with recipes from The Splendid Table (Morrow, $35).

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Kendall Gigax of Kendall's Gourmet Cheesecake & Chocolate Co. reports that she has developed a line of sugar-free cheesecakes for people with diabetes and a line of sugar-free, nut-crust cheesecakes for people on low-carbohydrate diets.

Sugar-free flavors include chocolate orange and chocolate cappuccino. “But low-carb cheesecakes are a little different because there's about 7 grams of carb per serving in cocoa powder. Instead of chocolate, we do the fruitier flavors,” says Mrs. Gigax.

Key lime, orange cream, and strawberry banana are among the low-carb flavors. “The key is we use a nut crust.”

Prices range from $8 for a two-person serving to $46 for 20 servings.

The shop is at 3144 West Sylvania Ave. It is open Tuesday through Saturday. Place orders at least two days in advance.

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The Ohio Hospitality Educational Foundation has selected Penta Career Center in Perrysburg to be among 31 high schools that offer ProStart in their curriculum. ProStart is a program designed for high school juniors and seniors that focuses on culinary aspects and business and management concepts in the food-service industry.

Members of the Northwest Ohio Restaurant Association will be speaking in classrooms, helping with field trips, and offering mentored internships.



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