Our pizza competition went off with a bang! And a crunch of the rather twiggy locusts.
Eight of Melbourne’s top chefs were for the challenge. That’s eight chefs who never kneaded dough. Eight chefs usually would be leaning over plates with a pair of tweezers rather than banging out Napoli sauce and mozzarella.
Things kicked off with a cheese stuffed pizza from our own Leo Gelsomino
Not one to do anything normal, Flo had the audience squirming yet curious with his crispy cricket pizza. With flavours being taken from the middle eastern variety of pizza, the base was made of house made labne (he also made the yoghurt as well), pomegranate and then mixed them up with the meatiness of his house cured bacon and the controversial and unusual crickets.
This pizza really polarized the diners, some embracing the crispy critters, others picking them off. Loved or hated, it sure has to be one of the world’s first cricket pizzas. And potentially sustainable too.
But things sure have changed since his days of making meat lovers and bbq chicken pizza, replacing processed ham for Jamon iberico and button mushrooms for truffles. Mat attempted to win the crowds over by indulging them with gourmet ingredients. His black truffle, Comte, Jamon iberico, roasted Jerusalem artichokes and pine mushrooms had the crowd silent while sinking into this indulgent treat. The room was overwhelmed by with the aroma of the precious fungus and the crowd arrrghhhed.
Matteo’s head chef Brendan McQueen stuck true to his love of mixing Japanese ingredients with European food. Brendan present his take on an Okonyamki the Japanese savory pancake, with cabbage, leeks, sesame, pork sausage, finished with bonito flakes and fennel pollen, then a generous squeeze of sweet mayo and teriyaki sauce. It was an umami whack to the system.
New venue Allium Food and Wine head chef Michael Harrison stood his ground among the industry veterans with his duck ham, miso, kimchi and prawn floss variation.
This quirky number was clearly a crowd favourite with the saltiness of the duck ham and the heat of the kimchi (which Michael makes in house). It really played into Melbourne’s emerging love affair with all things Korean and came out as one of the winning pizzas on the night.
It’s not even open yet Arbory bar and eatery is already kicking goals, with head chef Nick Bennett wowing the crowd with classic Italian flavours while introducing some people to some new ingredients.
Nick made his topping with N’djua (which is a spicy Italian spreadable salami which has roots in Columbaria) and guiancelle (which is a cured pork jowl, similar to pancetta) and lightened things up with some wild greens. He also won many fans that night with his addition of smoked clams.
The Napoli was switched for hoisin, before topping it up with really excellent crispy pork belly, spring onions, coriander and some red stripes of the holy Siracha sauce. The sounds of crunching on crispy crackling could be heard throughout all of Yak with big smiles on everyone’s faces.
The final frontier in the pizza finale was pastry king Pierrick Boyer’s dessert pizza – no less than “peanut butter & jelly, vanilla mascarpone”, Pierrick’s take on the iconic American sandwich.
With praline, mascarpone, crushed peanuts and fresh raspberries, the diners despite already being pretty full snapped this one up at lightning speed. Even though it was Pierrick’s first ever attempt at making a dessert pizza, he pulled it all together for what was simply one of best sweet pizzas we’ve ever tried.
The crowd was in a cheery mood after sampling a large variety of Italian craft beers and together voted on their favourites, the top three going onto the Yak menu for a limited time.
The votes came in and in no particular order was Michael from Allium’s Duck Ham, kimchi, miso and prawn floss pizza, Nick Bennett from Arbory’s N’djua, wild greens and smoked clam pizza and of course Pastry maestro Pierrick Boyer’s PPB & J pizza.
Thanks to everyone that came along and ate, drank and voted in our first ever pizza competition and a huge thank you to all the chefs that participated and donated their time and energy for our event. Make sure you do yourself a favour and check out their venues sometime soon as well.