Owner of six pubs in Buckinghamshire, Oakman Inns, finalist in National Pizza Awards

Alex Balan, Oakman Inns’ National Pizza Awards finalist with signature dish

The Oakman Inns team is hoping that their pizza recipe, using slow-proved dough, traditional Neapolitan ingredients and skills honed at the red-hot mouth of the pizza oven, will see them win one of the awards from the three prized titles: Best Technical Pizza; Pizza Chef of the Year and National Pizza of the Year.

On Thursday, 7th November 2019, Oakman Inns will be represented by Alex Balan, Oakman’s top pizzaiolo responsible for training their pizza chef brigade of over 30 using their ‘Esposito 75’ recipe. Known in the company as “The Pizza Maestro” he has worked for Oakman Inns for over four years and been a leading pizza chef for over ten.

The competition consists of two rounds: a technical challenge where each contestant is given 40 minutes to prepare two pizzas using specific ingredients supplied by the event’s sponsors. For the second round, also 40 minutes, the chefs will be asked to produce two examples of their own signature recipe that they submitted with their entry.

Alex’s signature recipe, which he’ll be cooking in round two, is Napoli Forte – which, in line with the heat of the wood-fired pizza oven, includes among its ingredients spicy Nduja sausage, and traditional Neapolitan pizza ingredients including Napoli salami, chilli, garlic, and tomatoes and Fior di Latte mozzarella cheese sourced from Naples. Oakman Inns’ Chef Director, Ross Pike and Alex believe that they have perfected an award-winning recipe for their pizza dough: they use Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana certified flour which is slow-proved for a minimum of 48 hours to create a crispy base with a lighter, more risen, blackened – not burnt – cornicione or crust. https://www.oakmaninns.co.uk/esposito

The National Pizza Awards’ judging panel of leading industry experts will mark on taste, texture, appearance and creativity.

Alex Balan commented: “I feel very proud to be representing Oakman Inns at the Awards. I’ve been working with our pizzaioli and head chefs on refining our Esposito 75 Neapolitan pizza recipes and I feel as though I’m representing all the great pizzaioli who work for us and who make some of the best, traditional pizzas I’ve ever tasted. Of course, I’m nervous but I’ve been practicing for both rounds over the last few weeks and my brigade are being very supportive too. One of the challenges for me will be cooking with a gas oven rather than a traditional wood-fired one, but the sponsors have been giving me some useful advice and access to the models we’ll be using on the day.”

Oakman Inns, which has almost completed its programme of installing traditional stone-floored, wood-fired ovens across their 24 pubs, serves their ‘Esposito 75’ pizzas in 11 regions. They are the only National Pizza Awards 2019 finalist representing these counties: Berkshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey, South-West London, Warwickshire and the West Midlands – see list below.

The National Pizza Awards final takes place at Islington Metal Works on Thursday 7th November 2019 and the Best Technical Pizza, Pizza Chef of the Year and National Pizza of the Year will be announced at 7pm. More information here:

The finalists are:

LONDON: Crust Bros, Wandercrust Pizza & Saint London

SCOTLAND: Dough Pizzeria Ltd, Edinburgh & Cold Town House, Edinburgh

The SOUTH-EAST: Pizzaface, Brighton & Purezza, Brighton

The NORTH: Pizza Repubblica, Leeds; Gusto Italian, Knutsford; Elliott’s Craft Pizza & Grill, Halifax; Rudy’s, Manchester & Foundry Project, Manchester

The SOUTH-WEST and WALES: Zerodegrees, Bristol; Ciliegino, Cardiff & Bath Pizza Co, Bath

HOME COUNTIES & WEST MIDLANDS: Oakman Inns & Restaurants