Chef Ricky Webster of Sysco Spokane competed as one of 11 finalists in three categories in the national 2019 Real California Pizza Contest today at the Culinary Institute of America at Copia in Napa, Calif.
Category winners received $5,000, and the grand prize winner received an additional $10,000. Webster competed in the Real California category and finished runner-up. He, however, remained upbeat post-competition:
“I didn’t take home the prize tonight, but being one of the top finalists in the nation is more than I could ask for. There were some heavy-hitters here, people who sling pizzas on a daily basis. I was honored to represent Sysco Spokane and pastry chefs everywhere. It was a lot of fun, and, of the four people in my category, second place ain’t a bad spot to be.”
Ahead of today’s competition, Webster, who won the Food Network’s “Holiday Cookie Challenge” and $10,000 grand prize in November, said, “With the finalist achieving, I think that it had a lot to do with my flavors, recipe and story.” He began his professional career in pastry at age 18 in New York, where he was introduced to white pizza.
Being born and raised in California with optimal growing conditions, Webster grew up eating fresh Swiss chard from his father’s garden. “In this pizza creation, I take both of these experiences and combine them into a flavorful creation that uses my 18-plus years in the food and beverage industry to execute a flavorful and well-balanced pie.”
His pizza, the Chard to Resist, includes hot honey and a delicate, bubbly crust with deep, earthy undertones inspired by his idol, Nancy Silverton. The base layer is Bellwether Farms white ricotta, and caramelized shallots, garlic and porcini mushrooms provide a savory and crave-able note.
The pizza is topped off with raw white cheddar for salty oiliness that ties it back to a New York pie. And don’t forget the pickled chard stems. “I think you’ll find this pizza has a great savory note and deep-developed, inspired California flavors packaged in a New York style that keeps you coming back for more.
“It speaks to my cooking style of using the best ingredients with no waste and combining rich flavors and balancing them with heat and acid — and always a touch of sweetness.”
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