Italian-born Cozzolino, who has several pizza restaurants in Melbourne, is still reeling after winning the 15th Pizza Chef World Championship in Naples last year.
It’s a dream, he says, that was a long time coming.
Cozzolino started his career in Naples at the age of 12, as a delivery boy for the pizzeria his grandfather and uncle owned.
“I started to do deliveries on my bike, go around and take the pizza around to the people. And then every night when I had to eat, I’d prepare my pizza, then pizza for the staff,” he says.
“I was really happy when I was making pizza for myself, for the staff, so I wanted to learn a little bit more.
“After that, I worked all around Italy with the best chefs, because I wanted to improve myself, my knowledge. I always wanted to learn more and always said it was a dream to become someone one day, you know?
“It’s not a job for me, because it’s 10 to 12 hours a day in a restaurant; you cannot call that a job. You have to love what you do, otherwise you can’t do that.”
Eventually, Cozzolino came to Australia, learned enough English to start running masterclasses, and in four and a half years has built a small pizza empire in Melbourne.
First was Zero95 Pizza Bar, where the specialty is Neapolitan-style pizza. That was followed by Zero95 Express, focussing on classic-style pizza, and most recently Cozzolino and his partners opened Six Slices.
“We call it pizza made with four hands – we put knowledge of the pizza maker, [and] knowledge of the chefs together. We make a nice gourmet pizza, and we match the wine as well,” he says.
Even in the relatively short time he’s lived in the country, he’s seen a shift in Australians’ attitudes and expectations regarding pizza.
“Pizza in Australia is changing a little bit, because there are a lot of chains that make bad pizza. We don’t make bad pizza.
“We use the best ingredients [and] we cook the pizza in just 90 seconds, so all the ingredients we put on top are still fresh – you can taste the best quality that we put on top.
“It’s not crispy pizza; Neapolitan style is soft pizza…
“People are starting to understand now the good food and the quality, because even now with MasterChef, when people watch the TV, they want to see the same things in the restaurant when they go to eat.”
For those who attend Andrea Cozzolino’s masterclasses, there is more than a transfer of knowledge to be had – it is his passion for his craft that will leave the greatest impression.
“For me, pizza is happiness,” he says.
“When you transfer something about pizza to the people that they want to learn, it’s something special for me.”
Andrea Cozzolino will share more of his pizza techniques at an industry masterclass at Antica Pizzeria e Cucina next week.
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