Judging a food competition sounds amazing, right? You get to sit at a table and people bring you food which you then eat and score. If it’s good, all is well. If it’s bad, you just stop eating. I love judging pizza competitions and have been fortunate enough to do so in both the U.S. and Italy, but my biggest challenge came last week when I was invited to judge a competition among four teams of 4th graders at an elementary school in Manhattan.
Each student duo was paired with a faculty member. There were no rules. This was no holds barred. Here’s the grading sheet:
I had no idea what to expect but was completely surprised when I saw the pizzas being built. In order to level the playing field, all groups started with the same par-baked pizza shell. No judging dough stretch or bake here, it was all about the toppings. No two pizzas were the same. Let’s take a look.
This was a “Peach-eroni” pizza, featuring grilled peach circles, meticulously cut from the outside of the fruit. Get it, they’re circles just like pepperoni! This pie had ricotta and mozzarella, with a gently hit of arugula and balsamic reduction after the bake. It was delightful!
Next up is the Deconstructed Cordon Bleu, a pie that successfully simulated the chicken dish I actually think works better on pizza than it does as a solo act. This was excellent, with a hint of dijon mustard to combat the weight of ham and breaded chicken.
TWO DIPPING PUDDLES??? Yes. One is pesto and the other is honey embedded with red pepper flakes. What you’re not seeing here is that the pizza was shaped like a heart! You can kind of see that it’s an odd shape, right? Well I sure hope you can see that the pepperoni, fresh mozzarella, and tomato slices (all added post oven) were cut into hearts. AMAZING! The girls who made this said they did it to show how much they love pizza. Message received!
Finally, a pizza that looks most like a standard culinary competition entry but tasted like an epiphany. There was a lot going on but it was all very clear in flavor. I remember shrimp, arugula, and orange zest (post oven). It was awesome. So full of surprises!
Kudos to the kids who competed. Everyone did an AMAZING job! This competition was part of an auction in which the parents bought raffle tickets for their chance to have their kids compete. The school raised $1,400 for the event, which cost them under $100 for ingredients. Really cool move and I was delighted to be a part of it!