Dean Starbuck can spin pizza dough above his head for one minute and thirty seconds. He and his co-workers from local restaurant chain Barro’s Pizza are hoping to beat that record at this year’s International Pizza Expo and World Pizza Games in Las Vegas.
The annual event features a trade show, exhibits and competitions centered on pizza. It takes place March 19-21, with pizza parlor chefs competing in categories like freestyle acrobatics, fastest dough pound, and box folding. There is a also pizza triathlon, in which competitors are timed as they fold a pizza box, then pound and stretch a dough ball.
But the participants don’t just play with their food; the contest for most traditional and most creative pizza recipe is a tough category to win.
Starbuck and Barro’s Pizza General Manager Tim Hoffman attended last year’s games and came home with a bronze medal in the dough spinning category. This year, they’ve added fellow employees Zach Tiner and Mike Barro Jr. to their team to help with the acrobatics and pizza-making.
“Who better to make a Barro’s pizza than a Barro himself?” says Hoffman, regarding Barro’s role.
Barro will be making a traditional pizza with pepperoni and sausage, while Hoffman hopes to win over judges of the creative category with his cannoli pizza, a thin crust dessert pie with cannoli filling, chocolate sauce and strawberries.
Competitors come from all around the globe to compete in the games, and Hoffman says that being around international pizza chefs makes for a memorable experience.
“Last year, I made friends with a guy who’s making pizza in Australia,” he says. “It’s neat to talk to people in other countries and trade secrets…Even though it’s a competition, everyone just encourages everybody, everybody’s making friends. It’s not a cutthroat competition.”
If you want to check the team’s progress, “like” Barro’s Pizza on Facebook, and you’ll get access to photos and videos from the Pizza Games.
While the Barro’s team hopes to take home a gold medal this year, Hoffman says he is happy just to be attending the competition.
“There’s got to be close to 700 Barro’s employees, so the fact that we get to go, I feel like I’ve already won,” he says.
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