how can we judge this food competition?

Hey all, the company I work for is having our second annual pizza bake off soon but the competition has grown a lot from the first one we did. We have four judges, two categories and thirty stores signed up for this year. There is decent money and a trip to Italy involved with the prizes so we want everything to be up and up honest but to ask four judges to try 60 pieces of pizza and be able to remember anything seems difficult. The public is not invited to this event, only each competitor with a three person team. Anybody have any ideas how we can make this work? Thanks in advance kuchi.

First of all, you’re going to need more judges. By the time a judge tries 30 different pizzas, they’re going to be pretty full, even if they only take small bites (which probably isn’t enough to judge a pizza on).

Second, I’d set it up as a tournament, with different judges at each tier. Put the entrants into a bracket, and give first-round byes to the winner and second place from last year (since you have 2 less than a power of 2). The pies compete one-on-one: A panel of, say, three judges each tries both pizzas, and vote on which one’s better: Winner advances, loser is out.

Third, I’d blind the testing: All the judges should know is “Pizza A” vs. “Pizza B”. And I’d probably also shuffle the judges around from one round to the next so nobody tries the same pie twice, at least for the first few rounds.

This will, as I said, require more judges than the four you have already. Assuming those four are somehow especially qualified to be pizza judges, you might want to save them for last, and just have them judge the championship round.

I’m not sure how you should do the seeding. Simplest is probably to seed all of the entrants from last year in order of their finishing, and then all the new entrants randomly.

If you want, you could make it a double-elimination tournament, but that’ll double the total number of matches required. Whether this is a good idea depends on how many judges you can get.

Oh, and I just noticed that you have two categories. Are the same pizzas judged in both categories, or will the entrants be making a separate pizza for each? And is everyone competing in both categories, or are some only entering one?

The two categories are traditional and non traditional pies almost all of the stores are entering both categories. we are already lined up with the 4 judges ( some local some from national pizza magazines ). I agree that more judges are needed but the contest has already been advertized and filled to capacity, Now I am supposed to come up with a way to do this. I don’t really know how to make this happen but I truly appreciate any help or ideas I can get.

I’d simply do it like most BBQ tournaments are judged, have each contestant bring an anonymous slice of pizza pie to the judging area in a clamshell with only a random and confidential number written on the clamshell to identify the contestant (Blind tasting). Have a judging sheet with different qualities or categories for the pizza to be judged on … say, Sauce, Crust, Overall Taste, Creativity, etc… all to be given a number rating, 1-5 " points or stars". Whichever pizza at the end has the most points or stars, wins. Split the tasting into two rounds… a morning and afternoon (or nightime) tasting to give the four judges a break and a chance to digest.

Correction… That would be four clamshells with a slice of za in each for the four judges…

A good judge only needs a bite, so when you think about it, if you split it into a morning and evening round, that’s only about 30 bites in the morning and 30 later.

If you’re committed to having only four judges, then the way devilsknew suggests is the only way I can see it working. Though I would suggest having a grand finale taste-off between the top 2-4 pies.

For pizza? I definitely disagree. Pizza has too many parts to make a fair judgment of on just one bite. Besides the distribution of toppings, you can’t really judge thin crusts just on the center part of the pie.

Well, I guess I should amend that, a good judge needs only one bite and an excellent sense of sight, touch, smell, detachment, and veteran experience. I imagine an expert judge could get a sense of a pizza with more than just taste, maybe by testing the top crust for texture and tenderness by pulling it apart , delayering the pizza… dabbing a bit of the sauce to taste on its own, perhaps pulling the pizza in two and getting a “center bite”. Hell maybe they could even spit it out if they are too full.

Taste can be subjective when you’re eating that much pizza. You might judge a slice you ate at the start better than one you ate an hour later just because you were hungrier at the beginning (and less sick of eating pizza).

I’d suggest a series of bracket eliminations where the judges can compare two slices against each other at the same time. If the majority of judges agree one is superior it moves up to the next level.

But wouldn’t they have to eat more pizza that way? They’d still have to try every pizza then eat more of the same in later elimination rounds

Also… what kind of “company” do you work for? Is this a restaurant or a pizza place, already? because if it were, then it would change the dynamic mightily.

In my experience these things usually seem to be sponsored by radio stations, for some reason.

Also, when I suggested bringing individual slices to the judges, that would seem a mistake. Probably best to judge pizza by the whole pie to really get a sense of the pizza. It would also make it that much easier to just bring the 4 judges a whole pie in generic pizza boxes marked with a number and let them do with it as they will. Another thing, You might also want to work out some turn-in schedule for the contestants. perhaps give the first five teams a certain turn in time then, the next 5 staggered 20 minutes apart or so, and so on, to make sure the judges get a fresh hot pie and can judge them on their proper merits. Or use some of those thermal pizza delivery bags to make sure they stay hot…

He/she says, there are 30 “stores” in their company competing this year.

I agree with the staggered turn in times and point system. It’s sufficiently fair and most efficient. Yes it sucks to be last, but there really isn’t any way to be perfectly fair and be feasible.

For staggered times, the order should be randomized.

And you must have points for “degustation,” I saw that on a pastry competition on Food Network and I love that word.

He didn’t say they were in his company. And you’d have to cast a pretty wide net to get 30 stores from any single company.

Thanks for the replies, I work or a company that sells, re-manufactures, and services restaurant equipment with the big focus on the pizza industry. We started this as a way to reach out to the independent shops in our area, some personal interaction helps when it comes time for a store owner to buy new equipment or open a new location. I am liking the tournament idea and all of your suggestions are very helpful please keep discussing.

Yea, to keep it on the up and up, and to give the contestants a sense of participation and fairplay you should do it the old fashioned way … have the judges sequestered, rally the contestants to choose their random designation number from the hat, then their timeslots. Keep it open and random and noone has a reason to make drama, or bitch how unfair it was, later.

Not to be pedantic or anything, but surely you can see my confusion with this statement in the context of “company stores”… turns out it is pizza place related.