A PIZZA maker founded in Kemp Town has been named Pizza of the Year at the Casual Dining Magazine Pizza Awards.

AT THE live finals, Pizzaface, which also has branches in Hove and Worthing, beat out competition from pizza makers based in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Bristol, as well as Brighton rival and last year’s champion, St James’ Street’s Purezza.

The Pizzaface entry was “The Jakub”, an item on their standard menu that features chorizo, wild boar salami, caramelised onion, dried chilli flakes, oregano and dollops of mascarpone.

Pizzaface was represented by pizza chef and company manager Brigi Stamber, who has made Casual Dining history by becoming the first female winner of the award.

“I have been working at Pizzaface with Bertie for almost four years,” she said.

I’ve started as a general manager and I was running our store in Brighton in Kemp Town. Now I am a company manager and I am helping Bertie to run all three sites.

“Over the years I’ve met loads of pizza chefs and learned a lot about pizza, from the difference between the flours we use, to the temperature of the water when you are mixing the dough until the pizza comes out from the oven.”

“Pizzaface is my baby. Creating it with Bertie [van der Beek], my best friend, has been a four-year journey, so this is a really big achievement,” said Brigi at the time.

“Particularly as a female, gay chef – it’s big, you know? When you think of pizza chefs, you think of Italian guys, so for a foreign girl to come in and win it makes me so proud of myself and so proud of Pizzaface.”

The National Pizza Awards are an annual event that aims to find the best pizzas and pizza chefs in the UK. Sixteen finalists were chosen out of entrants from across the country and invited to the live finals at Islington Metal Works, London.

The finalists had to create a “Technical Pizza” using only the ingredients provided, befory they cooked their signature pizza for a panel of industry experts, who then picked their favourites. After Brigi’s victory Pizzaface’s Bertie van der Beek tweeted: “big congratulation to Brigi Stamber for winning the main prize. I can’t thank her enough for the countless things she has done to get us where we are now.”

Clearly something is in the dough down south as Brighton and London based pizza maker Purezza won the 2018 crown. Their Parmigiana Party, which featured smoked vegan mozzarella, fried aubergine, crumbled soya sausage, basil and nutritional yeast, made history of its own as the first vegan pizza to take the title.

“The increase in the number of people following a plant-based diet has led to a high demand for better-quality vegan products and a rise in establishments that cater to this market,” said Casual Dining magazine editor Charlotte Mellor at the time.

This year’s Brighton-based winner Pizzaface was founded in 2009 when Bertie and Woody – a chef and a graphic designer – bought a run-down pizzeria in St George’s Street, Kemp Town. They have been in the ascendency ever since and now have three branches open as well as a mobile pizza trailer, which they have used to cater festivals and weddings.

This year has been a landmark year for the local pizza chain as their Kemp Town branch was also nominated for Best Italian in the Deliveroo UK awards. Their Hove branch recently moved from Poets Corner to Portland Road. They have also recently teamed up with Boho Gelato to add some inventive and ever-changing ice-creams and sorbets to the menu.

“We are constantly developing and expanding,” said Brigi. “This prize is a huge personal accomplishment. It has been a massive boost for us and the company. It was already a huge accomplishment to be one of the top 16 finalists in the whole country. We couldn’t contain our excitement when we found out we won.”