Leo Spizzirri showcases a pizza oven at the Pizza Innovation Center
From new education centers to premium ingredients, the pizza business is booming. In efforts to bring training to the forefront, Lesaffre recently announced the opening of a one-of-a-kind Pizza Innovation Center. This new facility, located in Lisle, Illinois, near Chicago, will bring the latest technology, equipment and expertise to the benefit of Lesaffre’ s baking customers in North America. It has been launched in conjunction with the North America Pizza & Culinary Academy.

The Pizza Innovation Center features the latest equipment, including a range of pizza ovens covering many technologies and styles, several types of mixing and dough handling equipment, a state-of-the-art dough preparation room that can replicate any real-world climate, a commercial kitchen, and an innovative kitchen instructional area.

“This new facility gives us more opportunity to innovate with key pizza clients who want to create new products, troubleshoot their process, or train their people,” says Tom Benner, president and chief executive officer of Lesaffre Yeast Corporation.

The Oven Room at Lesaffre Pizza Innovation Center
The North American Pizza and Culinary Academy is led by chef Leo Spizzirri, Maestro Instruttore, PFC, master instructor and member of the World Pizza Team.

“I am thrilled to be working with a partner like Lesaffre, who brings top quality ingredients focused on the art of great pizza,” he says. “They will bring their research and development team on site, and we can work at levels unrivaled in the industry. There’s a lot of expertise coming together here.”

At the North American Pizza & Culinary Academy, the goal is to get everyone excited about pizza. Cooking is a life skill that gives back in the most rewarding ways, Spizzirri says.

Premium ingredients are a key component of great pizza. At the International Pizza Expo 2018, Ardent Mills showcased pizza flours, ancient and heirloom grains and new crisped and IQF grains. Ardent Mills’ culinary team shared ideas for using premium flours and grains to add value to one of America’s favorite foods and one of the most vibrant categories in the restaurant industry.

Ardent Mills presented grain-based pizza trends at the International Pizza Expo
“High-quality wheat flour is the foundation for strong, flavorful pizza dough, and additional grains can do so much more for pizzerias,” says chef Jason Gronlund, technical sales manager, foodservice, for Ardent Mills. “Ancient and heirloom flours and un-milled grains can differentiate crusts, add texture to salads and inspire innovative ideas across pizzeria menus.”

Consider on-trend ideas that aren’t entirely new but are new when applied to pizza. For instance, Ardent Mills featured an Avocado Toast spelt flatbread crust with olive oil, mozzarella, shaved Parmesan and green onion during the expo. As the fast-casual pizza segment gets more competitive, operators need differentiators. Operators are using pizza dough for breadsticks, garlic knots and other appetizers. More pizzerias are adding dessert pizzas to the menu in a bid to capture add-on sales. So far, apple pie filling and chocolate versions have been some of the first to emerge. Fresh basil or mint, sweetened, soft cheese and citrus zest are some great flavor pairings for Italian settings that score a “wow factor.”