Nut-torious F.I.G takes home the loot in the Tournament of Champions

Nut-torious F.I.G takes home the loot in the Real California Pizza Contest: Tournament of Champions

Hypnotized by the Juicy toppings, PizzaLeah earned the Respect of the judges with this Unbelievable pie


The California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB), sponsor of the US Pizza Team (USPT), crowned the Grand Prize winner of the Real California Pizza Contest: Tournament of Champions foodservice competition October 17th, 2023 in an event challenging 10 past Real California Pizza Contest champions to create the quintessential California pizza using cow’s milk cheeses from California.

Chef Leah Scurto, owner of PizzaLeah Windsor Ca., won the contest’s Grand Prize for her interpretation of the REAL Californian pizza, The Nut-torious F.I.G. Touted as a sweet ode to the signature California fruit, this masterpiece uses Real California Mozzarella, Fontina, and Feta cheeses to balance fresh black mission figs, crispy Italian sausage, minced garlic, and olive oil. It is topped with raw chopped almonds and aromatic julienned sage leaves. Scurto will receive an all-expense paid trip to Italy to compete as a CMAB-sponsored chef in the 2024 Caputo Cup Pizza Competition.

“I’m so pumped for the win. I’ve won the category two years in a row, but never the grand prize.” Scurto continued her thoughts on winning pies, “The winner is whoever nails their pizza that day, and I nailed mine. My dough was on fire, I restrained myself from using too much cheese… I struggle with over-topping. Everything just fell into line today.”

In the second round of events, two chef teams tied for the highest score in the best REAL California Cheese Pizza category. Team one consisted of round 1 winner Scurto and Bill Crawford, from Rexburg, Idaho. They highlighted California Mozzarella, Dry Jack, and Provolone in their winning pie. The other winning team was USPT competing member David Jacobson, from Acre Kitchen and Bar in Oakland, Calif., and Spencer Glenn, from Monterey, Calif., who featured California Mozzarella, Ricotta, and truffle infused Toma.

But this event wasn’t just meant to showcase the best pizza makers on the west coast and beyond, it was also meant to highlight the diversity and sustainability of California milk and cheese.

Behind all the flash of Truffle flavor Toma or fresh figs, lies the base of every good pizza; a flavorful, melty cheese holding all the pizzaioli’s creativity in place on every slice. But cheese is cheese, right? It’s more complicated than that.

“The secret to a good cheese is knowing how to use it to compliment other flavors and toppings. All cheese is good cheese, it’s just a matter of how and where you pair it.” says Scurto. Tony Louters, Chairman of the California Milk Advisory Board echoes this sentiment, saying “California has always been unique. We do things bigger and better here and you can really see that in the pizzas in the competition today. The unique flavors, and not only the unique use of California cheeses, but other local resources like figs and nuts to really accentuate these pies. It’s the same thing we do in our dairies. We’re the leader in sustainability, innovation, cows and even cow comfort. Now you can add pizza to that list.”

Sustainability is not only an electrified word in the industry right now, but also a practical way of life for the people, land and animals of California, leading to happy cows, fruitful harvests and full pizza patrons throughout most of the calendar year. And in a time where everyone is looking for the next buzz word for your menu, California is already living that lifestyle.

“I look at sustainability from a farmer’s standpoint.” Says Louters, “We are the first environmentalists, the boots on the ground. If we don’t take care of our water, our resources, none of our families will have a future. We recycle our water up to 5 or 6 times before we put it out to the fields as a nutrient source for our crops. And a good portion of the feed for our cows would go into a landfill if we didn’t recycle it. We just love that about California.”

Jennifer Giambroni, VP of communications for CMAB added, “California is a very special place to produce food. We have a moderate climate allowing our cows to be outside almost all your long. We also have access to high-quality feed for our animals and a driving hunger for innovation. There are over 200 years of legacy and history in our wine and cheese country here, but we also seek out and embrace that innovation that’s going to drive the industry forward in the future. Things like recycling of water and cooperation between industries to reduce carbon footprints across the board, while reducing waste, and increasing the quality of production. “With environmentally conscious pizzaioli like Leah and Dave and the support for the industry from people like the farmers of the California Milk Advisory Board, pizza, cheese and milk can pave a path to sustainability and prosperity for future generations.

And on a final note, when asked his favorite part of the pizza, the Notorious BIG merely stated – “I love the dough.”

To find out more about California milk, cheese, cows, and to see what California farmers are doing to sustain this fragile food chain, visit



Brian Hernandez

Brian Hernandez