Worlds fastest pizza makers? They live here

Worlds fastest pizza makers? They live here

In the end, it came down to a split second between the two local pizza makers at the World Series of pizza making, who both returned to defend their austere titles as two of the worlds fastest pizza makers. 

With lightning speed, the two had to hand-stretch fresh dough, pizza sauce and top three large pizzas – one pepperoni, one mushroom and one cheese – as quickly as possible at Tuesdays competition in Ann Arbor, Mich. The competion was pretty intense, said Ester Tadena, a spokesperson for Dominos Team Washington, based in Falls Church. While speed was important, it was only part of the recipe.

But when the stopwatches ended, the two local pizza makers came out ahead as the two fastest in the world. And just maybe perhaps the universe; it has not yet been confirmed by NASA scientists whether the moon is made of cheese.  Dominos Pizza bestowed the title of 2008 Worlds Fastest Pizza Maker to Dennis Tran, a manager for the local franchise which includes Alexandria, with manager Emmanuell Dicks of the West End taking third place, beating out dozens of finalists from Dominos Pizza stores from around the world, as far away as India.

What does this all mean? Alexandria arguably has some of the fastest pizza makers in the world, said Robert Donner, Team Washingtons Operations Manager, and Dicks pizza-making coach. Weve won this competition every year but twice.

Greater Alexandria also boasts another important distinction: Its residents are some of the most voracious consumers of home-delivered pizza in the nation. With 190,000 residents of Greater Alexandria, its households gobbled up 850,000 Dominos-made pies last year or about 4.47 pies per man, woman and child living here, Donner said.

At the Michigan competition, Tran made three large pizzas in an impressive 46.4 seconds, averaging about 15 seconds per pizza. Dicks, 32, clocked a time of 49.1 seconds to make three pies, edged out only by Pali Grewal from England, who took second place with a time of 47.9 seconds.

Dicks, who lives near Landmark Mall, has earned third place in the competition for the second year in a row. Tran, who lives in Silver Spring, won $5,000 in prize money, the Frank Meeks Trophy and the coveted title. 

The beloved Meeks, who died in 2004, lived in Alexandria for most of his adult life, where he ran one of the biggest, most profitable Dominos franchises in history (its Duke Street location alone makes about 90,000 pizzas per year). Meeks, a runner who lived in Mount Vernon, was famous for leading his army of pizza delivery managers in morning runs down the George Washington Parkway, and he liked to challenge his employees to see who could build a pizza the fastest.

While Meeks nearly always won, one Alexandria employee, an Afghan immigrant named Waheed Asim put even him to the test, capturing the title of Worlds Fastest Pizza Maker seven years running, from 1987-2004. Asim now lives in Kingstwone, where he runs small business.

Tran took up the mantle from there. Taking second place was not an option, he said. This competition brings out my competitive nature. I brought speed and confidence to the table to defend my title. I came here to take first place, and I did.Tran, a Dominos team member for 18 years, was the returning champion.

He won the 2006 Worlds Fastest Pizza Maker title with a time of 55 seconds and the 2007 title with a time of 49.1 seconds. His 2008 time of 46.4 seconds sets a new world record for Dominos.

Quality was moderated as two judges highly qualified in Dominos standard pizza-making practices. If the pizza was not perfect, it was returned to the competitor who remade the entire pizza, while still being timed, said Tadena, who watched from the sidelines.

Alexandria food-makers go back into the ring next week at Nathans Famous July Fourth International Hot dog Eating Contest on Coney Island, when the petite Sonya Black Widow Thomas of Alexandria returns to defend her American title on July 4th.

In 2005, Thomas, a 100-pound, 37-year-old Korean-born manager of a Burger King franchies, set a new American hot dog-eating record by consuming 32 hot dogs and buns. She has been winning the American title ever since. She will most likely face four-time world champion Takeru Kobayashi of Japan, who will return to defend his world championship title.

At stake is the possession of the Coveted Mustard Yellow International Belt, the World Cup of competitive eating. The competition will be televised on ESPN.