A tasty challenge

MARSHALL -?Fourteen teams from FFA chapters across Minnesota came to Southwest Minnesota State University on Friday to make pizza. The four-person teams were competing in the first Totino’s Challenge at SMSU.

Totino’s is the pizza division of General Mills.

“This is a state level career development event,” said Joel Larsen, Minnesota state FFA adviser. “The winning team will have a chance to go to the national convention and compete in the food science event.”

Each team was given a product development scenario and an idea of what ingredients would be available and challenged to come up with a new brand of pizza and a production, packaging and marketing design.

“This is about building a relationship between GM and the SMSU Culinary Board,” said Jonathan Griebl, GM entrees platform manager. “We’re building relationships where we have their students interning with GM.”

Students in the culinary department must complete two internships and one capstone project to graduate.

Brianna Briggs is a junior in the culinology department at SMSU and one of the students on hand to help the contestants find the ingredients and equipment.

“They have four crusts and do six flavor ideas on half a crust,” Briggs said. “They taste them and whichever one they like the best they make on the fourth crust for the judges.”

With the pizza in the oven, the students feverishly work to design the production line, packaging and marketing.

“I’m making the front of the box,” said Lydia Meredith from Dassel-Cokato High School.

Next to her teammate Mistin Petersen is figuring pricing and marketing specifications.

“I mass everything,” Petersen said. That means weighing all the ingredients for the label, an important part of the judging.

Teammate Christina Babb was diagramming a visual representation of the production line.

All of the team cooperated in creating the pizza.

“It’s a spinach, chicken and alfredo pizza,” said Alyssa Torola. “We tasted a lot of different combinations because we really like alfredo and chicken.”

Local teams taking part in the competition included Marshall High School and Wabasso High School. Eli Welu, a member of the Marshall team, said he and fellow team members Michelle Deutz, Emily Mortier and Christian Sanders decided to make a pizza with alfredo sauce, chicken, bacon, mozzarella and pineapple. He said they tried different ideas to see which one was the best for them.

“It went pretty good,”?he said of the competition.

Each team presented their pizza for tasting and gave a 10-minute presentation, followed by a 10-minute question and answer session with the judges.

“You only had an hour,”?Welu said about the time limit for making the product, the poster, packaging and presentation.

Welu said there was also testing for the individual portion of the competition on food safety, quality and testing.

Aside from a chance to go to the nationals, a winning team just might see its creation brought to market.

“We’re looking for new ideas,” said Erin Goyette, GM technician and contest judge. “We have 11 flavors in our Party Pizza lineup, and we’re looking for more.”