150 competitors from 14 provinces had already passed. In two days, some 500 pizzas and a hundred empanadas had been made in the electric and wood-fired ovens set up in Costa Salguero. It had been a frantic and exhausting 48 hours for the pizza makers. I just needed to meet the winner of the Argentine Championship of Pizza and Empanada who will represent the country in the World Cup in Italy in 2023.
And when Christian Abarzua heard his name, he couldn’t contain a scream that was the closest thing to the one who scores a goal on the hour in the most important game of his life. The rush to the stage was followed by tears, a thousand hugs and a story to tell.
“I am born and raised in Neuquén. I come from a family of bakers. My parents taught me everything… The dough comes with me”, summarizes for Clarion unable to get rid of the cup that accredits him as the best pizza chef in the country in the tenth edition of the traditional contest organized by the Association of Pizzerias Casas de Empanadas (APYCE) and .
Argentine Championship of pizza and empanada. Photo Marcelo Carroll
He says that it is the first time he has competed in the Argentine tournament and that his father encouraged him to sign up. “He always told me to work tirelessly to get what I wanted. My life has always been a lot of effort. And these days were no exception. I arrived in Buenos Aires six days ago, I slept in a room without a mattress while I prepared the recipes and I bought the ingredients that I needed. But it was worth it,” he explains.
account that currently works advising pizzerias and that he has a small catering company. Who knows him and celebrates his triumph as if it were his own is one of the members of the jury, chef Federico Domínguez Fontán, who was in charge of the kitchen of the Llao Llao hotel for a decade and is a reference in Patagonian gastronomy.
“Cristian and Claudio (Jaramillo, from Chubut and winner in the Pizza a la Piedra and Empanadas categories) I knew when they were kids. They worked and learned with me in Bariloche. Cristian came from the bakery and not only became a great pizza maker but also a complete cook. Later he had to return to Neuquén but he never stopped improving and made it clear in this contest.
The Argentine Pizza and Empanada Championship is divided into nine categories: Mold pizza, stone pizza, gluten-free, Italian, vegan, meat empanadas, stuffed or covered fainá, “Free Style” acrobatics and larger dough. Except for the last two, all the others add points and the best comes out of the average.
Acrobatics with pizza dough, one of the categories preferred by the public. Photo Marcelo Carroll
The jury, made up of chefs from all over the country and guests from Italy, Mexico, Ecuador and Brazil, evaluates each pizza and empanada for taste, cooking, the technique used and presentation.
Before being crowned as great champion, Cristian Abarzua had won first place in the category gluten free pizza. It had shown off with a very good treatment of the dough and a cover that combined mozzarella with oyster mushrooms macerated in oyster sauce. and soy and lemon and lime zest. She also carried an apple pickle.
“I brought all products from my region. Apples, pears and nuts from a farm of friendly people. The oysters are from Plottier and I even came with an alicura trout”, she sums up.
Championship Winning Pizza
And while he says that all his recipes are “pure intuition”, the formula for winning the tournament was “breaking the mold”.
“The bet was to completely change the contrast of the pizza. And it went well for me. She thought that I had to fight with my boss because she wouldn’t let me practice to come to Buenos Aires and now I’m going to go to Italy”, she concludes.
Vegan Pizza: 1) Humberto Flores (Chaco). 2nd) Demian Pinto (Buenos Aires). 3rd) Claudio Izurieta (Buenos Aires).
Gluten-free pizza: 1st) Cristian Abarzua (Neuquen). 2nd) Francisco Vergara (Between Rivers). 3rd) Rodrigo Beretta (Buenos Aires).
The winners and the jury hall. Photo: Marceklo Carroll
Italian pizza: 1st) Matías Iacono (Buenos Aires) and Damián Mármol (Buenos Aires). 3rd) Agustin Veron (Buenos Aires).
Stone Pizza: 1st) Claudio Jaramillo (Chubut). 2nd) Marcos Noya (Santa Fe). 3°) Daniel Gabrielli (Buenos Aires).
Pan pizza: 1st) Claudio Izurieta (Buenos Aires). 2nd) Ariel Saucedo (Buenos Aires). 3rd) Matias Macchi (Buenos Aires).
Meat pie: 1st) Claudio Jaramillo (Chubut). 2°) Dante Castañeira (Buenos Aires). 3rd) Ana Celeste Aguero Urquiza (Salta) and Félix Sandoval (Salta).
Grand Champion: 1st) Cristian Abarzua (Neuquen). 2nd) Demian Pinto (Buenos Aires). 3rd Claudio Jaramillo (Chubut).