In May, Joana Mendes stood triumphantly at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada, holding the “Domino’s 2024 World’s Fastest Pizza Maker” championship belt above her head. She had just made history as the first woman to ever hold such a title, making three large pizzas in a record-breaking 39.2 seconds. 

It was a long road to success. Mendes came to the U.K. from Portugal at 19 in 2015 and immediately started working at Domino’s, moving her way up from customer service representative to becoming an assistant manager at her home store in Ipswich, England.  

She recalls watching a video of Pali Grewal, one of the largest operators under U.K. master franchisee Domino’s Pizza Group, attending the World’s Fastest Pizza Maker competition. He won three separate times in 2010, 2012, and 2014. This interested her, and Grewal would go on to be her biggest mentor. 

“Working at Domino’s, I always knew about the competition, and I noticed no women have ever won,” Mendes says. “It was something I always wanted to do, and it became one of the biggest goals in my life.” 

In 2022, after seven years of experience working for Domino’s, Mendes was encouraged to enter the qualifying competition by Dorian Xhemali, an operations director who was impressed by her pizza-making speed and quality control. 

She joined 80 competitors from across the U.K., each tasked with making three large pizzas topped with pepperoni, mushrooms, mozzarella, and Domino’s signature tomato pizza sauce. These competitions, which began in 1982, are judged by three pillars: dough/sauce, portioning of toppings, and placement. Speed and quality are of utmost importance, with a mistake costing 15 seconds to a contestant’s attempt. 

“The hardest thing is you have to have control [over yourself],” Mendes shares. “I practiced so much physically. Mentally, I was nervous, but I never felt like I was competing against other people. I knew this is something I wanted to achieve for myself and I knew I could do it.” 

After winning in the U.K., Mendes qualified for the next leg of the competition, aiming to make history in Las Vegas. She practiced tirelessly for the event for two years straight on top of her daily workload, and by the time 2024 rolled around, she felt more than prepared. 

Out of a group of 18 qualifiers, Mendes made it to the final round against three other Dominoids from across the world.  

“It was a long day [at the competition], but I got up early and I was ready,” Mendes says as she recalls her experience. “My goal was to take it to the next level, and I knew I had the best people by my side who showed me the process.” 

In front of nearly 8,700 spectators, Mendes made a pepperoni, mushroom, and cheese pizza in under a minute, breaking not just her own personal record of 79 seconds but in Domino’s history as well. Being the first woman to be crowned the World’s Fastest Pizza Maker, Mendes felt honored. 

She didn’t just win the title—Mendes went home with $5,000 in prize money, a trophy, and a championship belt, presented by Domino’s CEO Russell Weiner. Most of all, she had accomplished the biggest goal in her life—attending and winning at the Domino’s Worldwide Rally, which brings together employees from across the Domino’s network and celebrates what it means to be a team player. 

“It was a dream come true,” Mendes adds. “The feedback I have gotten is that others are inspired by me winning, and that means everything to me.” 

With this title under her belt, Mendes hopes to usher in a new generation of Dominoid pizza makers, and encourages women to not be afraid to enter the competition. Winning in both the U.K. and the U.S. was a lifelong dream for her, and she hopes to continue to motivate others. 

Now back home in Ipswich, Mendes still serves as assistant store manager for Domino’s Pizza Group. She looks forward to bettering herself and her craft, and continuing to support the brand and fellow aspiring World’s Fastest Pizza Makers. 

Pizza, Story, Web Exclusives, Women in Restaurant Leadership, Domino's