Domino's Pizza franchisee and chef Pali Grewal is the fastest pizza maker in the UK. He recently became the first non-American to come in the top three of the World Championships, by making three perfect pizzas in one minute. He talked to James Gallagher
How long have you been a pizza chef? For 16 years but it has always been a family business. My older brothers and I own the franchise and we now have 24 stores in the south-east of London.
What were the judges looking for? You have to learn to stretch the dough into the perfect crust and base, which takes a lot of practice. At the competition you are judged on speed, stretching, saucing, cheesing and toppings.
Was it a popular event? There were 1,500 spectators in the arena, and it was shown on live television in Detroit. We were also interviewed by CNN and NBC. For the UK final, people could bet on the outcome at paddypoker.com. As I won, some of my friends made quite a bit of money.
Do you toss the dough? No, we don't do that because it alters the dough's consistency. I use the edge-stretch method, stretching it evenly from the outside in. At the contests we have to make the pizzas in the same way as we would for a customer.
Did you win a prize? There are cash prizes for first, second and third place, but the best thing for me was the satisfaction and raised profile. The World Championship was exciting, but the UK final was more satisfying, partly because I won and broke the world record, with three pizzas in one minute and six seconds, and partly because four of the eight finalists were from our franchise. I was very proud of all of us.
Has Domino's supported you through all this? Definitely. Operations director Pat Thomas was particularly supportive. She took me to the USA before the finals so I could train in their stores and get used to the different ingredients.
Has it boosted the profile of your store? Very much so. All the way through the heats the local paper followed my progress and people kept coming into the store to congratulate me or even just find out how I had done. Also, we had a pizza party at our Andover store where we gave the public a chance to try to beat my time.
How do you think Domino's differs from the other brands? Domino's pioneered pizza delivery, and it's still all we do. We can just focus on making the pizzas as well and as quickly as possible.
Which is your favourite pizza? The "sizzler". It has tomato and garlic sauce, pepperoni, onions, tandoori chicken, jalapenos, mozzarella and herbs. It's addictive.
Finally, what happens to all the pizzas at the end of the contest? They don't even get cooked. I'm afraid they just get thrown away.