Five members from the Australian National Pizza team set off last night from Sydney to attend the 22nd Pizza World Championships in Parma, Italy, from 15 April to 17 April.
The Australian National Pizza team is the brainchild of directors Dario D’Agostino and Hamish Rodwell, both chefs by trade who saw an opportunity in late 2011 to take pizza in Australia to a new level.
“We took a big risk, but we made it,” says D’Agostino, director, The Australian National Pizza team. “We started this last year, and we didn’t think we would ever be able to take people to Italy. Regardless of the results we get, it’s already been a dream because when we come back we can tell other people, ‘Hold on, we competed in Italy’.”
Hamish Rodwell, Director, Australian Pizza Team, agrees.
“A lot of planning went into to get us this far," Rodwell says.
Under the direction and guidance of D’Agostino and Rodwell, the three Australian chefs who will be competing in the World Pizza Championship are Jacinta Cannataci of Hugos Bar Pizza; Mark Paterno of Italian Table; and Rino Lattanzio of Margarita Pizza Bar.
All three chefs will be competing in the pizza classica category of the event, where they are required to make the classic margarita pizza.
The team faces certain obstacles, such as adapting to the ingredients, the language and overcoming the judges of the palates, D'Aogstino says.
“Australia is a new country, and its palate is more open – you can find all kinds of toppings like noodles on your pizza here," D’Agostino says. "Europe is more set."He adds: “In any kind of competition you do abroad…the palate of the judges is very limited to maybe three or four ingredients. In Italy, with pizza, it’s dough, sauce, olive oil and prosciutto – that’s about it.”
Cannataci says that her method and approach to many of her dishes is the old saying that less is more.
“My method is to take a simple approach and to produce something that is fresh, presentable and edible,” Cannataci says.
Cannataci says she is excited for the event but even more excited to scour the food markets of Italy for its fresh produce.
"I'm excited to work with that Parma ham!" Cannatacci says.
However, working adapting to another country's ingredients is always a challenge.
"It's all different, but in the end it's all about the touch and the feel - you can't just go by a recipe on a piece of paper. It's all about knowing and trusting what works when you're using different ingredients."
The team has its sights on Pizza Champion in Las Vegas in June, where they are aiming to enter some competitors into the acrobatic competition, a show of flipping and twirling and whirling pizza dough about in the air all synchronised to music.
The long terms goals include to add and to build the National Pizza team up to include its own acrobatics squad to enter future acrobatic competitions, as well as open cooking school in each state that specalise in pizza making.
The Pizza World Championship will take place in the Parma Exhibition Center, a first for the competition, which used to take place in Salsomaggiero.