It’s true, I was featured on Best In Dough on Hulu! It was a real nail biter but I pulled through and scored a victory for the $10,000 prize. Believe me when I say I haven’t watched many cooking competition shows in my life. I used to watch the Japanese Iron Chef because it was incredible. But that was at least 20 years ago and a lot has changed since. Now there are cooking competition shows on just about every channel. People always talk about shows like Chopped but the only episode I’ve seen was the one with only pizza makers competing. All four competitors were friends of mine and Vincent Rotolo (Good Pie in Las Vegas) even practiced at my apartment. We invited a bunch of people to come over and bring random ingredients for him to play with. It was awesome. Little did I know that years later I’d be competing myself.
Best In Dough is a pizza competition show. Three competitors enter but only one wins per episode. Competitors are grouped based on a theme, so one episode features Nonnas while another has pizza makers who have won world championships. One of my favorites is the episode with college students. My episode “Eyes on the Pies” features three influencers. I won’t dwell too long on my frustrations with this term but it essentially refers to people who post pictures of things on social media. I like to think this episode proved that we can also make some pretty rad pizza!
Joining me were Chef Ashley Mincey and Shealyn Coniglio. I’ve known Shealyn for years and she definitely is a pizza influencer. Her outfits are over-the-top pizza love. It was super fun to be on the show with Shealyn! The other competitor was Ashley Mincey. As I mentioned earlier I’m not a food competition show watcher, but if I was I would have recognized Mincey from Season 9 of Master Chef. WHOA a real chef in our midst and one who has competed on TV before. Dang. Shealyn and I were in trouble.
While I definitely can’t say much about the TV magic, I can say that the producers treated it more like a true competition than a TV show. I really appreciated that. They didn’t tell us much about what we’d have to do on the show but they did give us a list of available equipment and ingredients. The producers also told us we’d have 60 minutes to make our dough the day before the competition. They set us up in isolated kitchens and let us do our thing. Then we handed our precious dough off to a production assistant who stored it in a cooler, or so we hoped. That was it!
On the day of the show we had several session in which the Best In Dough producers went over the rules and had us agree to understanding everything. Again, I really appreciated them taking it so seriously. In my mind, this was definitely more about a pizza competition than it was about being on a TV show. It’s funny because I’m extremely conscious of what makes good TV content, but this was a different situation. I’ve been judging pizza competitions for over 15 years but this was the first time I was on the other side of the judges’ table. I had to prove myself not only to the judges on the show, but also to all the pizza makers out there who trust me to evaluate their pizza. I had to deliver or I’d risk losing my credibility.
It wouldn’t be a competition reality show if there weren’t some twists. The producers of Best In Dough on Hulu designed each challenge to throw us influencers for a loop. First up was the “Out of the Box” challenge, designed to push us out of our comfort zone. Pizzas are extremely visual, but their cousin the calzone is not. Round one had us making calzones specifically because they’re NOT super visual.
I started by assembling ingredients that I thought would be interesting and delicious. Pancetta is always tasty but I never cook with it so that was an odd decision on my part. Once that was done, I kept the pancetta fat and cooked red onion in it. Since calzones are sealed, whatever’s inside really needs to cook first or you’ll risk getting a soggy mess inside. Next came the obvious ricotta and mozzarella, but I pulled a move from the book of Frank Pinello and zested some lemon rind into the mix. It smelled divine!
Once I had my calzone all sealed up and ready to bake, I took a look at the oven and noticed my two competitors’ calzones were both in the oven I planned on using. I could hear the judges complaining about how we all did something similar, so I ditched that plan and decided to drop my calzones into the fryer. I had never done that in my life, but thought the judges would appreciate the risk. My dough felt sturdy enough not to burst, so I went for it. What came out of the fryer was beautiful and I knew it would have a stunning visual element that’s usually missing with calzones.
Our second challenge was even more of a stretch than the first! We were tasked with creating monochromatic pizzas. Yet another challenge with a difficult visual element. I didn’t want to go with something obvious, so I decided on working with yellow. When our time began, I grabbed ricotta, scamorza cheese, corn, lemons, turmeric, and some anchovy. The judges were extremely skeptical about my flavor combination. I’ll admit all day that my specialty is not flavors and toppings. I’m really not a very good cook. I tend to stick with the basics. Not this time.
I cut my corn kernels off the cob and boiled them because I thought it would save time and I wouldn’t have to handle hot corn and potentially make a mess. The turmeric was only there to whip into the ricotta. Remember, I had to make this an ALL YELLOW pizza. Scamorza is a dry cheese similar to provolone and mozzarella. Plus, it’s yellow. I baked my pizzas in an electric Pizza Master oven but finished them off with a quick trip into a wood-fired Marra Forni oven just to get some char on top. After the bake, I hit each pie with grated grana padano, lemon zest, and a drizzle of anchovy oil. I love anchovy flavor but people get turned off when they see it, so I simply dissolved a filet of anchovy into some oil and added a few pepper flakes for fun.
Well, the title of this post already gave away the ending, but you’ll have to watch the show to find out how I did in each round. Getting to appear on Best In Dough on Hulu was really fun and I’m glad I participated. I don’t know if I’ll ever do something like that again, but it was a lovely experience and I’m relieved it’s over. The best part about participating was getting to hang out with Shealyn and Mincey. As I mentioned earlier, I already knew Shealyn but hadn’t met Mincey before. She was so awesome and I loved her energy so now she’s part of the SPT team! That’s right, Chef Mincey works with us through our online pizza making classes!
Check out Best In Dough and enjoy the episodes!