On March 19, Vancouver’s own Daisuke Matsumoto (aka Chef Dice-K), owner of Pizzeria La Sorrentina, competed in the International Pizza Challenge at the Pizza Expo. To everyone’s surprise, he finished sixth in his contest.
Matsumoto competed in The Pizza Napoletana Division. The rules are very specific: chefs must use type 00 wheat flour, peeled San Marzano DOP tomatoes and/or fresh cherry tomatoes, marine salt and extra-virgin olive oil. The dough must be kneaded by hand or with a low-speed mixer. After rising, the dough must be formed by hand and may be no more than 3 mm thick. The pizza must be baked for 60-90 seconds in a 905-degree Fahrenheit pizza oven. There are three official types of pizza allowed. Matsumoto’s pie was a Pizza Napoletana Margherita with Fior di Latte Appennino (a cow’s milk mozzarella).
Why did Matsumoto put himself in the middle of this pizza-making Dante-esque inferno? Two things motivated him. One, he was egged on by other pizzaiolos via Instagram. Two, he was doubting his pizza-making skills. He explained, “I was confused. Every single word I heard from customers or critics, I was thinking, ‘Should I change?’ I could change the temperature lower, longer cook, more crispier.” So, he embarked on a pizza-making vision quest.
Pizzaiolo Matsumoto prepared by using the oven at Nonavo Pizza on Mondays when Nonavo is closed. He also worked on revising his dough recipe to make four to five dough balls for the competition, instead of the usual 70 to 100 dough balls he made for his food truck. Matsumoto’s wife, Amy Hernandez-Matsumoto, explained, “So, honestly, it was like the last time he practiced that he got it right. So, it’s just one time that he got it right.” After a month of making the same Pizza Napoletana Margherita at Nonavo, the couple headed to Las Vegas for the Pizza Expo.
Competitors are supposed to bring their own ingredients to the competition. Vendors at the Expo told Matsumoto that they would bring the ingredients for him so he wouldn’t have to travel with them. There were problems getting the ingredients to his work site. Matsumoto formed the dough 24 hours before the competition and then the couple had to carry the dough around like a newborn baby making sure it didn’t get too hot in the Las Vegas sun. On the day of the event, equipment and utensils were missing from Matsumoto’s space and from the spaces of his competitors. It was stressful and chaotic.