8 Questions With Former World Pizza Champion Johnny Di Francesco
In 2014 Melbourne chef and restaurant owner, Johnny Di Francesco, won the title of World Pizza Champion at the World Pizza Championship held in Parma, Italy. Battling it out against 600 competitors from 35 countries around the world, Johnny won the title by making the perfect margherita pizza.
Owner of Melbourne restaurants 400 Gradi and Gradi at Crown, Johnny is serious about spreading his love and passion for pizza and Italian cuisine. His recent cookbook, World’s Best Pizza, includes a mouthwatering selection of pizza combinations, both sweet and savoury, as well as instructions on how to make the perfect pizza dough, including gluten-free dough.
When we got the chance to interview Johnny, we pounced. We love pizza here at Australian Handyman and who better to talk shop with than a former world champion?
Johnny gave us some great tips on how to handle mozzarella cheese and he revealed that he likes to DIY. He is a man after our own hearts!
Read the interview below.
World’s Best Pizza by Johnny Di Francesco, $40
1. Do you grow your own produce?
For the restaurants, no I don’t. I rely on trusted suppliers for my produce. However, at home I have a herb garden and we use those herbs for cooking at home. I think it’s really important for my kids to have an understanding of where the food they eat comes from and what goes into it, especially as food is such a big part of our lives. Even on a small scale, something like an herb garden gives a real appreciation of where food comes from.
2. Is presentation as important as flavour?
Absolutely. Most people eat with their eyes first and if something doesn’t look appetising, chances are that you’re not going to want to eat it.
3. What is your favourite ingredient to work with and why?
It may sound crazy, but it’s flour. Not only is it the cornerstone of a pizza, but it’s also a staple in so many other dishes. You can make it sweet, savory, thin or thick. It’s incredibly versatile and if you handle it well, whatever you turn it into will be the star of your dish.
4. What’s your best preparation shortcut or timesaver?
Fresh mozzarella is a staple of Italian cooking but if you are like many people and want to grate it, you’ll probably find it quite difficult. A sneaky trick is to freeze it for around 20 minutes, then grate it while it’s frozen. You can then store the grated cheese in a re-sealable bag in the fridge for up to five days.
5. What is your favourite pizza topping?
It has to be buffalo mozzarella. From texture to taste, it’s the perfect addition to many of my favourite pizzas.
6. In your opinion what’s the top food people buy that they could easily make themselves?
Pizza! I see so many people buying frozen pizza or ordering it in, and it’s so easy and fun to make that everyone should give it a go. Making dough is also something that the whole family can join in with, or if you’re cooking alone kneading dough is incredibly cathartic!
7. Do you DIY?
When I have time I do, and despite the protests from my builders I’ve also tried to help with the building of my restaurants.
8. Tips for making a top-notch pizza?
Focus on quality over quantity. Don’t get caught in the trap of piling as many ingredients as possible onto your pizza. The best pizza in the world, in my humble opinion, is the margherita, and there’s only 3 toppings needed.