Daniele Uditi knows pizza. The Caserta-born Italian chef has been slinging pies since he was a kid growing up outside of Naples. Today, Uditi’s bona fides include being the head chef at Pizzana, an award-winning pizzeria in Los Angeles and voted as No. 9 on the 50 Top Pizza list in America. He’s also the inventor of the much-copied cacio e pepe pizza, which truly put him and his restaurant on the map.
For Uditi’s next act, he’s the head judge on the new pizza competition show Best in Dough coming to Hulu on 19 September, 2022, where he’ll preside over and determine who can make some of the best pizzas in America.
Daniele Uditi with the Best in Dough's judges, photo by ©Hulu
Before we get into the show, Uditi agreed to come to my house so I could make him some pizza and he could judge me (shame me) and my pizza-making skills, and he didn’t hold back.
“Most people, when they’re making a pizza, are afraid to go the extra mile. And your pizzas are a perfect example of that,” he says.
What does that mean exactly?
“You start to see the leopard spots on your pizza, and you think it’s finished, but it’s not. You can’t be afraid to cook it longer.”
Undercooked pizza (photo by Marisa Lynch)
According to Uditi, every little thing matters. Cooking a pizza longer also means getting the right temperature, stretching the dough the right away, making sure the amount of toppings don’t make the pizza too soggy, and so much more.
“Everyone’s idea of a perfect pizza is different, but there is a version of perfect in every style of pizza. No matter what, there’s a right way to cook that pizza, a right amount of time to proof it, a right way to stretch it, and a right number of toppings to make it come together. It’s a giant puzzle where all the pieces need to fit together just right.”
The recipe I used was from Uditi’s cookbook, Ricettario Vol. 1 – Sourdough, which incorporates a sourdough starter as a leavening agent and a 24-hour proofing time. And not surprisingly, when he cooked with the same dough, his pizzas turned out a lot better than mine.
Uditi shows off his pizza (photo by Marisa Lynch)
“Stop being afraid to cook it!” We both made our pizzas on a Gozney Roccbox at around 550° F. Uditi masterfully twisted the pizza around the oven to create the perfect char every time, while I struggled to get my char just right.
“There’s a big difference between charring and burning. Most people get this wrong. You want to char the crust so it has a crispy bite but keeps the dough soft and chewy in the middle. It also gives the undercarriage the right amount of hold, so your pizza doesn’t flop over and lose all your toppings.”
Pizza with a lot of toppings (photo by Marisa Lynch)
Apparently, I didn’t just have a charring problem, but a stretching problem, which you can see in the photo.
“I need to teach you how to stretch. Look at your pizza shape? It’s not even a circle.”
Pizza with terrible shape (photo by Marisa Lynch)
Switching gears, I asked Uditi about his new show coming to Hulu. Hosted by Wells Adams of The Bachelor fame, and judged by Uditi, the show brings together pizza lovers of all stripes to compete for pizza supremacy, and a nice $10,000 cash prize.
“There are so many cooking competition shows out there, but we wanted to make something that was more fun, and what’s more fun than pizza?”
In the first season, there are ten episodes that feature everything from nonnas using old-world recipes, to influencers trying to boost their social following, to Midwesterners attempting to prove that deep-dish is the best dish.
“Pizza is the great unifier. And since the pandemic, so many people have been making pizza at home. We wanted to give people a platform to show off their pizza-making skills and see if they could stack up with the best pizzaioli in the world.”
While the judging is always critical, there’s a warmth to this show that’s different. Whether contestants win or lose, they can’t say they didn’t have a great time trying.
“At the end of the day, pizza is fun. Making it, eating it, experimenting with it. Everyone loves pizza and this show is both a celebration of my favourite food and a competition for people to show off what they can do at home. I hope this inspires more people to make more pizza in their own homes.”
Best in Dough premieres on Hulu on Monday, 19 September. The show is hosted by Wells Adams and the head judge is Daniele Uditi. Other judges include Chef Millie Peartree, comedian and influencer Eunji Kim, and baker Bryan Ford.