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Once again, we’re looking for the best pizza recipes using Real California Cheese. Delicious toppings, tasty crusts, Real California Cheese. Are you the secret ingredient? This is your chance to raise the bar on pizza creativity. All you need is a winning recipe!


The California Milk Advisory Board is seeking America’s best professional chefs and most promising culinary students to create innovative new pizzas in three categories:

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The Real Californian


Judged by a panel of professional chefs and international culinary experts, finalists will prepare their creations on Wednesday, June 22nd, 2022 at the CIA Copia kitchens in Napa, California. All finalists win a cash prize. Finalists who are not category winners will receive $500 each. Category winners will each receive $5,000. The Grand Prize winner – judged as the best overall pizza – will receive an additional $10,000.

Chefs can choose from a selection of more than 250 varieties and styles of award-winning Real California Cheese to create the most innovative, interesting and inspiring recipes! Refer to https://www.realcaliforniamilk.com/cheese-makers for approved Real California Cheese brands and varieties.


The contest is open for recipe submissions from March 1, 2022 through April 24, 2022. Eligible entrants are from:

  • Professional restaurant and pizzeria pizza chefs from across the United States
  • Culinary students from accredited U.S.-based culinary schools


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A pizza recipe blending your interpretation of the culinary and flavor fusion of California and Mexican cuisines featuring Hispanic-style cheeses from California.

This fusion pizza recipe will celebrate the great flavors of both Mexico and California along with these delicious Real California Cheeses: Asadero, Cotija, Cotija (Queso Anejo), Enchilado, Enchilado Anejo, Manchego, Menonita, Oaxaca, Panela, Queso Blanco Fresco (Queso Para Frier), Queso Fresco, and/or Requeson.

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A pizza recipe representing your interpretation of The Real Californian pizza. This is the “wild card” category allowing pizza chefs to a create a signature California pizza recipe. The goal is to feature ingredients that showcase the best of the Golden State with a special focus on Real California Cheeses.

Everyone knows what’s on a “Hawaiian” pizza. Here’s your chance to create a “California” pizza for the world to fall in love with.

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A pizza recipe emphasizing the delicious flavor combinations of plants (e.g., fruits, vegetables, nuts, and/or beans and other legumes) and Real California Cheeses.

This on-trend flexitarian pizza recipe will deliver flavorful produce-centric toppings layered to complement cheeses made from California milk, where meats or other non-cheese proteins are considered an optional garnish or condiment. 

For a list of the more than 250 varieties and style of Real California Cheese and the approved brands that produce them, as well as clarification on which Hispanic-style cheeses from California qualify for the Hispanic pizza category, please refer to the California Cheesemaker list.


The contest is open for recipe submissions from March 1, 2022 through April 24, 2022:

Completed Entry form with:

  • Pizza Name and Photo – the name of your pizza and a photo of it prepared and baked – based on your recipe
  • Recipe – specific ingredients including brands and varieties of Real California Cheese; preparation and baking instructions for your recipe
  • Background/Inspiration – a 300-word (maximum) essay describing your personal/professional background and what inspired your pizza recipe

Review Real California Pizza Contest Official Rules for complete details.

There will be three rounds to the Real California Pizza Contest:


All complete qualifying entries will be judged separately. Judging criteria:

  • Name – 5%
  • Photographs – 10%
  • Background/Inspiration – 15%
  • Use of California Cheese – 35%
  • Flavor Expectations – 35%

The top 25 scoring professional chef/culinary student entries in each category will become semi-finalists.


The preliminary round winners will be judged separately. Judging criteria:

  • Name – 5%
  • Photograph – 10%
  • Background/Inspiration – 15%
  • Use of California Cheese – 35%
  • Flavor Expectations – 35%

The top four (4) scoring professional chef/culinary student entries in each category will become finalists.


Twelve (12) finalists – four (4) in each category, and 3 International Chefs – will compete in the live bake-off final event at the CIA at Copia facility in Napa, California on Wednesday, June 22, 2022. The professional chefs and culinary students in each category will compete on an equal basis. Judging criteria:

•  Name/Photo – 5%
•  Background/Inspiration Live Presentation– 25% (based on a combination of personal background, inspiration, speaking and presentation skills and charisma)
•  Recipe – 70% (25% flavor/15% texture/15% inventive use of Real California Cheese/15% presentation or the look of the final baked pizza).

A single chef (professional or student) in each category will be selected as the Category Winner and the top scoring entry of the three category winners will be selected as the Grand Prize winner.

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One Grand Prize winner – $10,000

Three Category Winners – $5,000 each

Twelve Remaining Finalists – $500 each

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Tony Gemignani has had a passion for the pizza industry since 1991. His humble beginnings began at his brother’s acclaimed Pyzano’s Pizzeria in Castro Valley. Fresh out of high school, Tony took on the task of a pizza thrower and soon began entertaining the restaurant crowds with his wily tricks. A few years later, he entered into his first pizza throwing competition in Las Vegas and quickly became the top pizza thrower in the world.

Since his days at his brother’s pizzeria, Gemignani has received a number of accolades for his impressive pizza making and throwing skills. He is president of the World Pizza Champions; the first and only Triple Crown winner for baking at the International Pizza Championships in Lecce, Italy; and, his most prestigious title to date, the 2007 World Champion Pizza Maker at the World Pizza Cup in Naples, Italy, where he was the first American and non-Neapolitan victor. He has appeared on popular shows like The Tonight Show with Jay LenoGood Morning America, and is a regular on Food Network. Gemignani also received his Master credentials from the Scuola Italiana Pizzaioli and is the proprietor of the International School of Pizza where he certifies chefs from around the world. His most impressive accolade to date is being named the official U.S. Ambassador of Neapolitan Pizza by the city of Naples, a prestigious title only given to three people in the entire world. In 2011 and 2012 Tony won two world titles in cooking, making him a 13-time world champion.

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Glenn Cybulski is an award-winning executive chef & certified pizzaiolo with over 100 national and international culinary awards in rustic Italian cuisine and American comfort food. He is widely regarded as one of the Top 10 pizzaiolos in the U.S. and has extensive public speaking, culinary writing, & restaurant consulting experience. Glenn is the co-founder of Chefs Feeding Kids, a non-profit organization focused on reducing childhood hunger across the U.S.

In addition to a seminar speaker and columnist for Pizza Today, Cybulski is also an instructor at the magazine’s School of Pizzeria Management. He is a frequent guest lecturer and a panelist at the International Pizza Expo.

Cybulski’s restaurant experience includes working with Terry Collins of Papa Murphy’s Take ‘N’ Bake Pizza in 2006, where he designed the crust for the “Thin Crust DeLight” pizza. He has consulted on the Travel Channel’s show “Food Wars.” He was also the co-owner of Sonoma Naturals and executive chef at Fregenes Italian Pizzeria and has owned and operated several restaurant concepts over the years.

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Spencer Glenn took home the grand prize in 2021 Real California Pizza Contest for his Life Is Gourd pie, representing the Plant-Forward category. Inspired by a recipe shared with his late grandfather, the pizza featured a California Asiago/Romano blend, Toma and mozzarella along with fried baby sage leaves, pomegranate arils and pistachios.

Glenn also had the winning pizza in the Cal-Mex category with his Elote con Chorizo pizza. Glenn received $5,000 for winning each category and an additional $10,000 for the grand prize distinction, for a total of $20,000.

Glenn has worked in pizza for almost two decades, starting with his very first job at 15 years old. He’s currently the general manager of Pizza My Heart in Monterey, CA. He’s a self described pizza geek with a passion for both the art and science of pizza.

As an avid competitor in all endeavors, pizza is no exception, and Glenn has enjoyed competing at company competitions and the World Pizza Games in Las Vegas. He’s won 1st place two times in the largest stretch and once in the fastest box folding competition. He’s also been runner up once in the freestyle and largest stretch competitions. He also enjoys making pizza art by ‘painting’ on pizzas with sauces and toppings.

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Approved cheese varieties and brands (listed by brand and variety) within categories for Hispanic-Style and All Cheese/California)

For a list of the more than 250 varieties and styles of Real California Cheeses and the approved brands that produce them, as well as clarification on which Hispanic-style cheeses from California qualify for the Hispanic pizza category, please refer to the CA Cheesemaker list.

We recognize some of these cheeses may not be available in your location.  You are encouraged to enter the contest anyway, substituting the cheese you use in your development process for the cheese from this approved list in your official recipe entry. The California MilkAdvisory Board will supply the specified approved cheeses from finalists’ recipes at the bake-off.