Food Network star Ted Allen and Rich Eisen of the NFL Network have participated in the ultimate taste test: helping narrow down a field of more than 12,000 Facebook entries in the Papa John's Specialty Pizza Challenge to just three lucky finalists. The announcement was broadcast live on Papa John's Facebook page.
The result? Two spicy recipes featuring jalapeno peppers and one with a new take on a traditional dish.
The Big Bonanza features barbecue sauce with bacon, beef, ham, and was submitted by Blair Dial of Springfield, Ill. The Cheesy Chicken Cordon Bleu features spinach alfredo sauce, extra cheese, grilled chicken, ham and onions, and was submitted by Barbara Hyman of Los Angeles, Calif. The Workin’ Fire combines tomato sauce with jalapeno, spicy Italian sausage and pepperoni. It was submitted by Kendra Chapman of Ball Ground, Ga. The three pizza combinations received the highest marks based on appearance, aroma, taste and overall appeal, as chosen by Papa John's celebrity judging panel.
The three pizzas will be featured August 2–29 on the Papa John’s menu and their creators will each receive a $1,000 marketing budget to help promote their pizza. The highest-selling pizza will be declared the winner – and its creator will receive a “slice” of the sales (up to $10,000), free Papa John’s pizza for life, and the opportunity to appear in a “Papa’s In The House” TV commercial.
“Customers responded to this challenge by combining ingredients that normally have a very niche audience and making a case for them in the mainstream,” said Allen, host of Chopped on the Food Network. “Finding a balance in the ingredients was key to creating a winning recipe, as well as not overloading the pizza with too many toppings.”
Though each variety of Papa John’s sauce (original, spinach alfredo, and barbeque) is represented in the finalists’ recipes, only 19 percent of the entries used spinach alfredo sauce, while 14 percent used barbeque. Of the more than 12,000 entries received, jalapenos and pineapple were two of the most popular toppings, featured on 20 percent and 18 percent of the submissions, respectively. All of the finalists feature Papa John’s original hand-tossed fresh dough crust, though 27 percent of the overall submissions were built on thin crust.
“Papa’s Specialty Challenge was the Facebook equivalent of a 12,000-person focus group, giving our team a direct pipeline to our customers’ preferences,” said Andrew Varga, Papa John’s chief marketing officer. “We have just begun digging through the data to determine trends that may impact our menu offerings in the future, perhaps even inspiring us to add new toppings to the mix.”