Elizabeth Falkner and Her Winning Pizze Visit The Daily Meal

Elizabeth Falkner visited The Daily Meal to recreate the pizza that made her a world champion
Lindsay Meyers

Chef Falkner's menu for the evening was a mix of modernist cuisine and old school-style pizza.

This week, Elizabeth Falkner — chef, pastry chef, Top Chef Masters contender, and 2012 World Pizza Champion — visited The Daily Meal to create a special menu highlighting her varied career, including the fennel pizza that earned her the title of 2012 World Pizza Champion.

Jane Bruce

Although she loves pastry and has been recognized often as one of the country’s most talented pastry chefs, Falkner’s professional start in sweets was less pursued than handed down.

In the beginning of her career, the young chef was hired to work in pastry at Masa's, a French restaurant in San Francisco.

“I asked to move into the savory side of the kitchen after about a year there," said Falkner. "The chef said 'No, I don’t really want any women on this side of the kitchen.' It was the nineties, and that’s what we were dealing with back then.”

Falker went on to work as Traci Des Jardin’s pastry chef, and later opened Citizen Cake in San Francisco in 1997. By the time she closed the shop, along with her restaurant Orson in 2011, Falkner was itching for more challenges.

Jane Bruce

“I left San Francisco because it started to feel too much like a small town, and I needed a bigger audience.” Thus came the move to New York City. 

“At the same time I decided to go compete — after doing Next Iron Chef and coming in second — in a pizza-making competition in Naples, Italy.” Armed with fennel pollen, Falkner decided to compete with a fennel pizza, complete with fennel sausage, braised fennel, and fennel pollen. 

Jane Bruce

Jane Bruce

Out of 450 competitors, Elizabeth was one of four women. "There were guys plating with gold leaf and I went up there just knowing my pizza was going to taste really good.”

Elizabeth won the competition "which was shocking," she says, with an entry called Finnochio Flower Power.

Along with her winning entry, chef Falkner's Daily Meal menu included Bianca and cavolo pizza (blue cheese, ricotta, mozzarella, kale, roasted garlic, fried sage), and “Smokey Bro” pizza featuring smoked mozzarella.

Jane Bruce

Jane Bruce

The key to a great homemade pizza, by the way, is a 36 to 48 hour window during which pizza dough needs time to break down sugars properly.

“People say ‘I’ll make a pizza today.’ Well, you should’ve had that thought two days ago. You can't make pizza dough and cook it the same day, and expect it to taste amazing and perform amazingly because the yeast needs to start digesting the sugars and starches.”

Although she favors a traditional and simple Neapolitan-style approach to pizza, Falkner’s other fascination is modernist cuisine, touches of which appeared on the rest of the menu: arancini with squid ink yuzu aioli, chicken liver mousse, and mullet roe bottarga shaved over asparagus and burrata.

Jane Bruce 

Jane Bruce

Finally, Falkner finished the evening with a pair of desserts: gianduja chocolate mousse with the same potato puffs, and saffron rose panna cotta with strawberries. 

Jane Bruce

Jane Bruce

Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.

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