• U.S. Pizza Team acrobatic spots sewn up in N.Y.

NEW YORK CITY -- Three out of nearly 30 pizza makers earned spots on the U.S. Pizza Team during the International Restaurant Foodservice Show of New York, held Jan. 19-20.

The one-day competition included three categories centering on dough-handling skills: freestyle; largest stretch; and fastest pizza maker.

All three winners won expenses-paid trips to the World Pizza Championships in Salsamaggiorre, Italy, in April.

Brothers Pizza 1's George Giove, from Staten Island, N.Y., took first place in freestyle (a creative display of dough-tossing tricks set to music).

Brian Edler, a four-store Domino's Pizza franchisee from Findlay, Ohio, stretched an 18-ounce dough ball to a paper-thin width of 54-inches to take first in largest stretch.

If that wasn't enough, Edler also was the fastest pizza maker, slapping out five seven-ounce dough balls in 20.37 seconds.

Edler's victory in two categories posed a problem for the team selection. U.S. Pizza Team organizer Steve Green said the solution was to let Edler remain the team's fastest pizza maker candidate and move Michael Shepherd -- who finished second to Edler in both categories -- into the top dough stretcher's spot.

Shepherd, who is from Michaelangelo's Pizza in Kenton, Ohio, stretched his dough ball to 51 inches.

The two remaining spots on the five-person U.S. team will be filled at the Mid-America Restaurant, Soft-Serve & Pizza Show, scheduled for Feb. 23-24, in Columbus, Ohio. There, some 75 pizza makers will compete in the categories of best traditional pizza and best gourmet pizza.

According to Green, the pizza competition drew a lot of media attention in New York.

"We even had a report on CNN," said Green, by phone from his Oxford, Miss., headquarters. "Jeannie Moos did a three-minute spot on the contest. She was a lot of fun ... and she posed for pictures with each of the contestants."

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