Pizzaiola – what is it? How do you become one? And what they are doing to make the pizza industry a better workplace.
As we answer all of your questions, get ready, and talk about what some pizzaiolas are doing, what you can do to empower others, and what you can do to become a better pizza maker!
Let’s get started!
Here’s What You Will Find:
What is a Pizzaiola?
Pizzaiola is a female chef proficient in making authentic Italian-style pizza.
The male version of the term is pizzaiolo, while pizzaioli refers to all pizza makers without gender distinction.
“Pizzaiola” is derived from a tomato sauce incorporating olive oil, garlic, and oregano paired with meat or pasta used to braise the meat in a slow cooking process to aid the breakdown of tough proteins.
Pizza Industry in General
The pizza industry as we know it today is overwhelmingly male; it’s estimated that 77 percent of restaurant chefs are male.
This stereotype is especially true in pizzeria kitchens, where the image of a pizzaiolo wearing a paper cap and a sauce-stained apron has become part of a gourmet legend.
Pizza making has always had a macho mentality: manly guys manipulating dough and spinning it in the air, spreading out toppings, and bringing hot pies out of the oven. True right?
When was the last time you ordered pizza? Who delivered the pizza?
Probably a guy, and if a girl delivers the pizza, the first thing that comes to mind when you open the door is, are you lost?
What about those girls that work delivering pizzas? What has been your worse experience?
Some men don’t waste time seeing a female working at a pizzeria or making a delivery.
Many people have adopted the notion that pizza is delivered by men and women simply consume them.
Pizza-Making as a Career
Women are accustomed to being told that they belong in the kitchen, but not as professional chefs.
Did You Know?
Did you know that no pizza place has ever won a Michelin star, while a noodle parlor in Singapore has one?
It shows the extent to which pizza is not taken as seriously as it should.
Imagine for one second if your daughter says to you, or you say to your parents: I want to be a pizzaiola.
How would you react? Seriously.
Your first thought might be to ask, “Are you out of your mind?”
Before anything, let’s stop before you have a heart attack and, second, realize that it’s not that crazy of an idea.
So how can we change that reaction?
Let us aspire to make pizzaiolas tremendous and bring the stars home.
Pizza making lacks fine-dining setups such as chef de cuisine, patissier, and the likes.
It’s a flexible and casual trade that better fits the feminine kitchen craft, but somehow, it’s still male-dominated.
So let’s meet the women that are aspiring to make that change.
Meet the Women Who are Changing the World
Pizzaiola Laura Meyer
Laura Meyer, a pizzaiola from Parma, Italy, took the lead for World Pizza, a Championship for the best pan pizza in 2013. The judges of Italian origin referred to her as a champion using a masculine term.
Despite taking first place in the competition, she was the sole champion who received no trophy that day; it was mailed to her in 2014.
She claims that they blatantly denied acknowledgment that a female was the champion. She goes down as the first-ever female American to ever win the competition.
In 2015, Meyer enrolled at the Las Vegas International Pizza Expo. Being the only woman in the competition, she took the title of best nontraditional pizza. She created a three-way-infused rosemary dough.
Recently, she enrolled for the Caputo Cup, a contest usually held in Naples, Italy, for pizza making. She won the first American Pizza division with her famous simple pepperoni pizza. Meyer then came third at the traditional pizza contest held in September in Atlantic City, NJ.
Laura empowers women to take the pizza industry by the balls and believes they can become pizza powerhouses if they work towards it. She says women were always part and parcel of pizza, even in a macho industry.
She encourages and empowers women to fight domination through Tony’s, her prestigious pizzeria in San Francisco, where she is the owner’s right-hand person and runs the International Pizza School.
Her boss sometimes faces many challenges when serving pizza to men, even on his property. She claims that men stare at her chest discreetly on many occasions, hoping she will not catch them.
On her first day at work, she remembers a male co-worker looking at her as she made pizzas, and it seemed as if he was bewildered.
Then the gossip…
Many rumored that she must have been Tony’s wife, yet she is not even legally married to him. It clearly shows male chauvinism at work.
To change the unhealthy domination, Meyer is starring in other women’s pizza parlors, trying to support them in standing firm in the industry.
She has visited pizzaiolas all over the country, such as:
- Lovely Fifty Fifty pizzaiola at Portland, owned by Sarah Minnick
- Septuagenarian owned by Norma Knepp of Amish County
- Osteria Mozza Los Angeles pizzeria by Nancy Silverton
- Audrey Jane’s Pizza Garage in Colorado by Audrey Kelly
Pizzaiola Nicole Rusell
Nicole Rusell ventured into the male-dominated pizza industry, where she serves delivery Last Dragon Pieces from her Queens home.
A true queen from Queens, she participated in the New York Pizza Festival in 2019, where many watched her make her signature chicken pizza (tandoori style).
Being a woman, especially a black one, she could hear comments such as ‘she designed that! I saw her make that one!
She narrates how her Afro descent and feminism make many underrate her until she presents her pizzas on the table.
Her amazing secret recipes have won her clients who travel from Texas to New York as tourists to come to savor her pizza recipes.
She believes that women are winning the game of pizza!
Pizzaiola Audrey Kelly
Audrey Kelly is pizzaiola who started a pizzeria in Colorado in 2015, soon after graduating from the Le Cordon Bleu school. Her family runs and owns several bagel-selling shops that have been in operation for decades.
Her family runs and owns several bagel-selling shops that have been in operation for decades.
Initially, her workforce was men only, and she was the sole female in the kitchen.
Today, she has changed the gender ratio to 50-50. She equates gender equality to a craft for prosperity.
She remembers times when some men did not put in the work; they detested instructions from a woman. If her husband gave the orders, they would be carried out almost immediately.
Pizzaiola Ann Kim
In 2019, another pizzaiola, Ann Kim, was awarded the title of the top chef across the Midwest as rated by James Beard Foundation.
She owns a pizza parlor in Minneapolis.
Kim, a Minneapolis pizzaiola, believes that women can propel pizza ranks higher even if it is hard.
Her most sought-after item is the Korean barbecue-style pizza, which introduces most of her clientele to their first Korean cuisine.
Kim believes that the secret to attracting new customers is perfecting the art of making a foreign pizza that is not being made elsewhere.
Subtle Changes in the Pizza Industry
Subtle changes in the pizza industry have seen the menu at Sorbillos in Naples include a special Neapolitan pizza called a “Unique Pie.
It collaborates with the La Barbie Pizzeria, a pizza-modeling doll today.
Here’s the Barbie Pizziaola, making pizza all by herself; no need to have Ken around!
Barbie knows anything is possible! She's not afraid to take on a challenge and to achieve her dreams. Barbie pizza chef doll aims to be the best pizza maker in town, and young imaginations can help her with this creative playset -- it has so many fun, working features to inspire storytelling!
A working conveyor belt takes a pizza through pizza-making steps starting with the dough press, through the topping shredder, and into the oven.
Women in Pizza Movement
The women mentioned above (Kelly, Russel, and Meyer) have come together to form a Women in Pizza movement.
Women in Pizza became an official alliance in September 2019. The organization has a website, womeninpizza.com, which empowers women to share their stories about the pizza industry, inspire innovations and connect with fellow pizzaiolos worldwide.
Apart from the three women, other female ambassadors in the movement who are incredibly influential are Giorgia, a world champion pizzaiola and teacher; Nicole Bean, a pizzaiola and proprietor; Shealyn Brand, a pizza connoisseur, and influencer, among others.
Go and check them out!
Pizzaiolas, who have established a name for themselves, still get frustrated due to the sexism in the industry.
Recently, Laura Meyer had some crew from a certain Italian Television station scamper over in a bid to have an interview with her where she had to give the excuse of having to wear her hair down.
The fascination seems not to wear off even after she has become a champion.
How to Empower Women in Pizza
Now that we’ve seen what other women are doing in the pizza industry to bring equality, here’s what you can do to embrace them and empower yourself to be a better pizza baker.
Support Women in the Pizza Industry
Start by visiting women-owned pizzerias in your area.
Observe what their menu looks like, any new pizza topping combinations, or regional-styled pizzas they may offer. Or, when on vacation, look for places owned by Pizzaiolas and check out what they are doing.
Try them all!
Here is something you can check right now.
You can get a pizza oven from a female-owned business. Isn’t that cool?
Here’s something super interesting, Bravadough!
Bravadough! was the direct offshoot of Kim Desch and her first career as a nurse practitioner. In 2006, her California practice focused on autoimmune disease and gluten sensitivity.
This was before ‘gluten-free’ was the buzzword it is now. Eating out, especially pizza, was difficult for her gluten-free patients, often resulting in poor patient compliance. When she was diagnosed with gluten intolerance, she became keenly aware of how difficult it was for her patients.
Suddenly, pizza was off the table. Like her patients, she was faced with choosing health or pizza (it was a close call!).
Let’s face it; pizza is a necessity!
So when Kim’s family moved to Boulder County, Colorado, in 2011, it was time to find that solution.
Finally, that science and biology background paid off – this time in the kitchen. Almost as soon as the first crusts were sold, the requests poured in for a dough ball.
Chefs wanted their creative license back! Of course, pizza, but calzones, stromboli, focaccia, breadsticks, garlic knots…why not have it all?
The only thing missing is the gluten! Pizza…real pizza…can once again be enjoyed in all of its varieties; thick, thin, pan, New York, Napoletana…the varieties are limited only, as it should be, by the chef’s creativity. 100% of Bravadough! doughs are multi-award winners.
So that’s it. Girl meets pizza and falls in love. Girl loses pizza. Girl gets pizza back.
Share your Pizza Knowledge
Making pizza is something that people usually think is difficult to do. But the reality is, it’s not difficult at all.
There are some elements that you need to dominate and techniques to learn. But with practice, they are all easy to overcome.
So, if you know the secret to making the best pizza, share it with someone and help a new pizza baker. Embrace the sense of community and share your knowledge with others.
You can create your pizza competitions with your neighbors and friends.
Teach at local schools and libraries. You’d be surprised at how people are interested in learning new things.
Become a pizza mentor.
You can mentor a girl interested in learning how to make pizza. Make pizza instead of making cupcakes or cookies with your children’s friends.
Here’s what pizzaiola Tara Hattan is doing.
Tara Hattan was the solo pizzaiola in Oklahoma Broken Arrow. She asks whether it is lame to say she makes pizza for fun.
Girls and women have flocked to their pizza parlors to watch what she terms as her pizza acrobatic styles.
This way, she becomes a role model to the young girls and an inspiration. Tara travels with her ProDough everywhere to inspire as many women as possible.
ProDough is an innovative device to develop pizza-throwing skills and is often used for the competitive acrobatic art form.
It is made of non-latex material and simulates real pizza dough in texture, consistency, and touch. Tara shows everyone that women are efficient (and excellent) in pizza making.
Invest in a Women’s Small Business
Women supporting other women in business helps to reduce male domination in the sector.
Here are some pizzaiolas who have invested in the pizza-making industry.
Pizzaiola Mary Jane Riva
Mary Jane Riva started her first business at 20 and tripled its profits within 3 years. It allowed her to move into the venture of a pizza franchise, where she encountered sexism hurdles.
However, in September 2012, the Pizza Factory Franchising System approached her to ask her if she was interested in acquiring the company.
According to the former owners, Riva was the best candidate because her work ethos and beliefs were similar to those of the Pizza factory.
Buying the franchise did tremendously, and soon, she was the CEO.
Riva made it in the Pizza business because she was a resilient woman who did not let machoism bring her down.
Today, she oversees marketing, IT, and management in her company.
Pizzaiola Premila Vishwanath
Premila Vishwanath owns 14 Pizza Hut joints and has been in the franchise business for over 9 years.
She invests in women’s small companies, especially pizzaiolas, by coaching those who work under her.
Women can make significant breakthroughs in the pizza-making industry if they put effort and their best foot forward.
Women’s investments provide a ripple effect since they return to their families and society. When others see successful women, they believe in themselves and aspire to be better.
Participate in Social Groups
Social media has made it easy for pizzaioli and pizza lovers to come together, share and discuss issues affecting them, and better their businesses.
The pizza Lovers group is found on Facebook and has 23.5 thousand members. Participation in the group involves buying and selling pizza-related items, pizza discussions, and any related subtopics.
A featured section where you can advertise your pizzeria and hot pizza topics.
On Instagram, Pizza Lovers Society has a dedicated page where participants can post their best pizzas, pizza ideas, pizza motivations, and anything they can think of.
These include funny memes and pizza quotes, people enjoying cheesy pizza masterpieces, and many other items. The page has a Facebook link too.
Participate in Pizza Competitions and Attend Pizza Expos
The closest pizza expo will be held on March 22 to 24 in the Las Vegas Convention Center.
It ranks as the 38th annual international Pizza expo, expected to showcase top suppliers and sessions with educational content related to pizza and pizza-making competitions.
Scheduled educational activities include School of Pizzeria Management Workshops, Seminars, and live demos.
Exhibitors are expected to teach pizzaiolos what is required for a successful pizza business where top suppliers will be at the venue for face-to-face discussions.
Other famous pizza competitions are popular among pizza lovers. Planned for October 16 to 17th this year, Pizza and Pasta Northeast have scheduled the match to crown the best pizza maker in the region.
The trade show is exciting since the entries will be prepared in an open contest area for all to see. In attendance will be world-renown pizza makers and consultants.
The Caputo Cup competitions usually help discover the best ways to make Neapolitan and U.S style pizzas. Its divisions include traditional, nontraditional, pizza Napoletana and gluten-free options.
The pan pizza category was recently added in 2019. Winners of all the above categories except the Pizza Napoletana will receive $2000 and a trophy. The champion of Pizza Napoletana gets to bag $3000 and an award.
Tell the Women in Your Life that You Care
We care for women in the pizza industry and encourage those who aspire to make the best pizzas someday.
Women who have made it in the industry have proved resilient in the face of male domination and believed in themselves.
All you need to excel in any life venture is the right skill and determination to win. Whether the men support or do not support you does nothing if you cannot propel yourself. It is all about you!
The Last Slice
Now you’ve learned what a true pizzaiola is, the bravest woman in the pizza industry, what they are doing to overcome and excel in a male-dominated industry, and what to do to become one of them.
Awaken the woman power within and see what great heights you can achieve in the pizza industry.
You can start right now if you just share this article with at least five aspiring women to encourage them to make things happen.
We are vouching for you and your dreams big time!
The Pros at Homemade Pizza Pro would like to thank the two special pizzaiolas who made this article possible. Yeap, you know who you are…
Thanks to EB for writing pizza articles daily and to Stephanie for being such an inspiration!
Let’s continue to change the pizza world one article at a time!
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