The second time is much sweeter and the third is so far the most exciting. California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) Philippines’ Pizza Wars 2017 proved to be a celebration of sweet victory and gastronomic excitement in the tradition of the #CaliforniaCreativity.
For Rommel Panaligan, a pizza chef from CPK Alabang Town Center, winning the CPK Philippines Pizza Wars 2017 was more than an affirmation of his commitment to his love affair for food.
Panaligan won the competition for the second time—this year and in 2015, when CPK Philippines became the first international franchise to carry out the pizza creation contest outside the U.S.
Pizza Wars 2017 was undoubtedly the most surprising and exciting as Panaligan’s winning entry, Garlic Cream Cheese Pizza, commanded a slim 0.25-point lead over its fiercest competitor, Thai Beef Pizza by CPK Greenbelt 5 chef Danny Fernandez.
During the final round held at CPK Shangri-La Plaza branch, the audience (which comprised mostly of press people and food bloggers) held their breath before the winner was announced. Following tasting of the entries and prior to the announcement, most of them could not tell which between the top two creations would win.
Panaligan’s Garlic Cream Cheese Pizza stands out with its garlic cream sauce from one of the pizza restaurant chain’s best selling pastas. It is topped with sausage, chicken, candied walnuts, caramelized onion, three kinds of cheese, and streaks of balsamic vinegar.
The second placer, Fernandez’s Thai Beef Pizza was an instant crowd favorite as it boasts solid sate flavor with just the right amount of spice. Its sauce is made of spicy sate and its toppings comprise of tender beef strips, onions, carrots, and broccoli.
The third placer, CPK Greenhills chef Jay Mar dela Paz’s Bahn Mi Chicken Pizza is as interesting as the two top contenders. It uses curry mayo as base and special sauce for the strips of chicken. The pizza is topped with bean sprouts and carrots then sprinkled with mild vinaigrette. To complete the mix of flavors, it is also adorned on top with thin slices of cucumber, radish, and lime.
It was apparently a tough task for the competition’s panel of judges—CPK Philippines President and CEO Archie Rodriguez, CPK Chief Financial Officer Griffith Go, social media foodie Spanky Enriquez, and food celebrity Sandy Daza.
All three original pizza creations will be included in CPK Philippines’ one-day menu for the 4th National Pizza Day in August. As the winning pizza, Panaligan’s Garlic Cream Cheese Pizza will be part of the restaurant’s new menu for rollout in 2018.
“Win or lose, we will continue to encourage and nurture their passion for keeping the spirit of California creativity and adventure alive,” said Bob Vallar, Marketing Manager of Global Restaurant Concepts, Inc. (GRCI), operator of CPK restaurants in the country.
“Apart from showcasing the talents of our pizza chefs who are equally passionate about food as we are, we wanted to challenge them to take their culinary skill set to new heights. And sure enough, they have proven to be up to that challenge,” Vallar added.
In the first Pizza Wars in 2015, Panaligan’s winning entry, The Farmer’s Choice, was a celebration of the abundant local produce. It was a uniquely Filipino pizza creation as its base consisted of coconut milk and roasted squash with cinnamon. Its toppings included slices of grilled eggplant and zucchini, cherry tomatoes, shredded mozzarella, chunks of fresh mozzarella, and desiccated coconut meat. This pizza creation has since become a mainstay of CPK Philippines’ menu.
Chef Rodel Pico from CPK Bonifacio Global City ruled the competition in 2016 with his unique creation, Anchovies + Goat Cheese Pizza (in photo below).
Pizza Wars is an annual competition for CPK Philippines’ chefs from all its local locations. During the elimination rounds, each branch sends its representative entry to the semi-finals, where a shortlist of three finalists is created.