Published on April 25th, 2016 | by Brian Hernandez0
Groupon U.S. Pizza Team Brings Back Gold From World Pizza Championships in Parma, Italy!!!!
After finishing second two consecutive years in acrobatics at the World Pizza Championship in Parma, Italy, Groupon U.S. Pizza Team member Jamie Culliton of St. Petersburg, Florida, struck gold in 2016. Culliton was leading the field going into the finals and dazzled the judges on Wednesday, clinching the the U.S. victory. Dancing and spinning dough between his legs and behind his back to the beats of Maroon 5’s Lucky Strike, Culliton drew cheers from the excited crowd with his hand stands and dough kicks while never seeming to break a sweat in his purple, striped shirt and trademark fedora. After the announcement that Culliton had finally tasted victory after two years of tantalizing runner-up finishes, the veteran pizza chef was hoisted on the shoulders of his ecstatic USPT teammates. “After two years of silver, Jamie is as good as gold,” said Steve Green, PMQ Pizza Magazine publisher. “We’re so proud of him and the whole U.S. Pizza Team. All is right with the world.”
In Wednesday’s finals, which serve as the main event of the yearly pizza competition, Culliton scored 469, good enough to beat five other finalists, (including former World Champion Dan Leicu) by only two points! At the evenings awards ceremony, Culliton added gold to the hardware he already won with back-to-back silver in the previous two years’ contests.
The new World Champion credits his success to continuous improvement over 10 years of work competing in Freestyle Acrobatic contests around the world. “In my first competition, I came in last,” he recalled. “I worked hard for over ten years to get here, and if that can be an inspiration to anybody….if I can start from last and win gold, you guys can, too. But it’s not about being the champion. It’s about being part of a team. I couldn’t have done any of this without each and every team member that has been supporting me all these years.” This is the first U.S. pizza Team gold medal in freestyle acrobatics since 2001.
The team increased their presence and scores this year with 3 teams reaching the top 12 out of 67 in Pizza For 2, a pizza built in stages by a chef and a pizzaiolo. Michael LaMarca (Master Pizza, Cleveland, OH) and Jason Samosky (Samosky’s Homestyle Pizzeria, Valley City, OH) led the group with a top ten score, followed closely by the teams of Leonardo Giordano (Mona Lisa Pizza, Staten Island, NY) and Leonardo Rago (Panino’s Pizza, Chicago, IL), and Gino Rago (Panino’s Pizza, Chicago, IL) and John Coletta (Quartino, Chicago, IL) .
On the second day of competition, Quartino chef John Coletta of Chicago competed in the prestigious Heinz-Beck gourmet competition in the second day of culinary events with a Crespelle; a crepe filled with mint and grated lemon, with asparagus and fresh truffles. “The judges looked really excited by the dish I made. We’ll see what happens,” Coletta explained. Members also competed in Classico, Pan, Pizza on the Peel, Largest and Fastest.
Other embers joining the team for the competition this year were Drew and Natalie French (Your Pie, Athens, GA), Dave Sommers (Mad Mushroom, West Lafayette, IN), Mike Russo (Romeo’s Pizza, Cleveland, OH), Bruno Brunetti (Panino’s Pizza, Chicago, IL), David and Tara Tieman (Five Points Pizza, Nashville, TN), Scott Volpe (Pizza Fiamme Napoletana, Tuscon, AZ), Joey Streeter (USPT Florida), Michal Reyes-Casanova (Five Points Pizza, Nashville, TN)
PMQ’s own Brian Hernandez, U.S. Pizza Team Director, competed for the first time in 5 years of taking the team to Italy. Hernandez remarked, “This was definitely a learning experience for me. I can yell at my team all day long to ‘Get on the bus’ or ‘Don’t forget your ingredients’, but until you do it for yourself, you don’t realize the chaos and intensity that is this competition. I will definitely compete again, and I will better my score. That is the goal of any U.S. Pizza Team member. Better your craft through every competition and experience in this industry, and they are the best at it. I am honored to be in their company.”
The team regularly competes in events across the U.S. and internationally. The squad won Second Place in Individual Free Style in 2014 and 2015, First Place in the 2011 Team Acrobatics event and a First Place in Individual Freestyle Acrobatics at the 2016 World Pizza Championships in Italy.
PMQ Pizza Magazine, the business trade publication for the pizza restaurant industry, created the Groupon U.S. Pizza Team in 2000. The team is sponsored by Groupon, Grain Craft, California Milk Advisory Board, Gordon Food Service, Westrock, Sofo Foods, LaNova, Paradise Tomato Kitchens, Bag Solutions, Fontanini Meats, Lillsun, Marsal and Sons, Univex, PizzaInsurance.com and Presto Foods.