SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

February 5, 2014

Salem pizzeria hopes to show chefs’ skills on a world stage

BY ETHAN FORMAN
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — Just in time for the start of the Olympic games in Sochi, Russia, a Salem pizzeria is trying to drum up support for the World Pizza Games in Las Vegas next month, which features such events as speed dough-stretching.

The Flying Saucer Pizza Company on Washington Street has turned to the crowdfunding website Kickstarter to raise enough dough to send three of its chefs to the international event.

One of Flying Saucer’s chefs, Tyler Griffin of Salem, has a good chance of beating the world record for the fastest dough stretch, says Nicole Spirito, general manager of the 30-seat pizza shop.

The campaign to raise $3,000 for expenses like airfare, hotel, and convention entry fees attracted 26 backers and $721 in its first five days of fundraising.

The way crowdfunding works, if the campaign is successful and the goal is met, the activity gets funded. Backers receive prizes based on their level of giving. Cinema Salem turned to Kickstarter to upgrade its projection equipment to digital.

Kickstarter accepted the parameters of the campaign, Spirito said.

“They agreed that our goal is similar to a lot of other goals for Kickstarter projects, which is to launch a project, get their names out there and become a success. ... We are just trying to do the same thing,” said Spirito, a Salem resident with a background in marketing. “This is very fun. We are very fortunate that we have an employee who can stretch pizzas really, really fast.”

Griffin has worked at the pizzeria at 118 Washington St., next to Gulu Gulu Cafe, since it opened in August 2012. Both restaurants, Gulu Gulu and Flying Saucer, are owned by Steven Feldmann.

Among the other competitive events at the Las Vegas expo are freestyle acrobatic dough tossing, largest dough stretch, fastest pizza box folding and pizza triathlon.

In the dough-stretching contest, competitors vie to see who can stretch five 12-ounce dough balls to the size of a small 12-inch pizza in the fastest time. Last year, a new record was set by Brittany Rowe of Ohio for a time of 33.94 seconds, according to the Pizza Expo’s website.

Spirito, who knew Griffin was a fast stretcher, recreated the dough stretch contest, and Griffin was able to smash that record, informally, at 28 seconds, she said.

“I really think we have a fighting chance if we can raise the money and send him, that he would not only win the competition but break some records.”

Sending chefs to compete in the contest may also spread the word of Flying Saucer Pizza Company far and wide.

“This is a huge tourist town, so somebody from Oregon who went to that convention comes out here for Salem Halloween: ‘Oh, I heard about this really great pizza place ...’ I don’t see a downside in putting this out there,” she said.

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Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.