CiCi’s Pizza is gearing up for the finals of its inter-company Pizza Throwdown competition to find the top pizza cook while also benefitting the Salvation Army.

CiCi’s team members from around the country will compete for the title of “Ultimate Pizza Artist” on January 11. The winner will earn a crystal pizza cutter, a flat screen television, gaming consoles and $2,500.

The second place finisher will receive $1,500 and Play Station 3 with Motion; third place earns $1,000 and an Xbox 360; and fourth place wins $500 and an iPod Touch with speakers.

The contest began in November with more than 300 contestants who competed in eight regional events. Four finalists emerged and will compete on the morning of January 11 in Frisco, Texas.

The four finalists include:

  • Martin Cabellero from Lynchburg, Va., a 12-year CiCi's Pizza veteran;
  • Elizabeth Cruz from Roeland Park, Kan., whose parents and siblings also work for CiCi's;
  • Martin Gallegos from Terrell, Texas, who was recruited to join the CiCi's team by his brother who already worked for the company;
  • Alvaro Patino from Shreveport, La., who with his brother, joined CiCi's at the urging of his cousin who was a CiCi's manager.

The competition will include quality pizza assembly, such as dough stretching, seasoning coverage and even cutting, speed, accuracy, and the ability to keep the CiCi’s pizza, pasta, soup, salad and dessert buffet stocked with hot items while also welcoming guests.

Each finalist is responsible for the preparation of 21 different CiCi’s buffet staples. Once judged, the items will be donated to the local Salvation Army.

"We know that we have some of the most attentive and talented pizza professionals in the business," said CiCi's Pizza CEO Mike Shumsky. "CiCi's Ultimate Pizza Throwdown gives us an opportunity to recognize their incredible work in a fun environment that highlights their skills."

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