The word and image that comes to mind when describing Joshua Schainbaum of Fire Eaters Company is “pure.” He is dedicated to producing his wood-fired pizzas in the most authentic way possible, using only the highest quality stone-milled flour, and managing the dough and fermentation process over a 48-hour period before baking in a wood-fired oven.
There’s something totally refreshing in knowing these very fine pizzas are made with an “old world” knowledge and expertise. Even as Joshua describes the mastery required in dough fermentation that must take into consideration the changing temperature and humidity before and during the bake, he does not consider himself a master. Rather, he suggests that “my apprenticeship is dramatically accelerated, and my respect and admiration for master bread bakers throughout history deepens daily.”
When asked how he got started in the business, Joshua responded that he knew he wanted to do something with artisan food craft, and particularly with fermentation. He moved toward fulfilling what he refers to as his “secret purpose in life” by starting a mobile food business, producing artisan breads as well as pizza with the most traditional methods and baked in a wood-fired oven. “No machines; everything done by hand. We believe the product is better when mixed by hand, the way it’s been done for thousands of years.”
Soon demand outweighed supply. “People were ordering bigger and bigger quantities in order to freeze some. It was so odd to have people come up to the window of our mobile food unit and order ten pizzas for the freezer.” So the team created “The Chosen Frozen Pizza.” And today, the demand for the frozen products continues to grow faster than the production capacity. “That has fundamentally changed our business. There’s no time to go mobile anymore.”
Perhaps knowing that Joshua has been cooking for himself since he was 10 years old, and baking bread since age 20, helps in understanding how he chose the business he’s in, or how the business chose him. In addition, in his early 20’s he backpacked in Western Europe and then went on to work in Moscow for a year. “The bread in Europe was amazing; the bread in Russia was even significantly better. It was life changing. Ultimately, it was the breads of Russia which inspired me.”
Joshua ends on a philosophical note about his career and life purpose: “There is so much value in traditional food ways. It’s not just about cooking and eating. From planting to the dinner table, there’s a quiet power and intensity at work that’s palpable when you’ve got your hands in it; when your livelihood depends on weather, soil, determination and the skill of many hands.” And he concludes, “There’s a limit to which each of us may travel in the quest to unite purpose and livelihood. There’s a different threshold for each person across which we will not step. I’m willing to go a bit farther – one day, when my kids are grown, my wife and I will move to an orchard in New England, start a craft cider brewery, build a wood-fired oven and bake artisan bread.”
You have two opportunities to sample Fire Eaters Wood-Fired Pizzas: during our Fun First Friday festivities, on October 2, along with a bit of wine or cider, from 5-7 pm, and then again on Saturday, October 24, from noon to 6 pm, during our National Food Day celebration in the store. Remember, shoppers get 20% off Fire Eaters products during the month of October.
To learn more about Fire Eaters Company visit their website: www.fireeaters.mobi.
A big shout out to our producer, Castle Valley Mill. In the interview, Joshua spoke so highly about the breads in the original business being made from 100% stone-ground Castle Valley Mill flours, made to their specifications. Pizzas require a different dough and Joshua offered: “One day we’ll find a way to produce breads again, and we’ll happily use local flours milled at Castle Valley Mill. If you bake, you must investigate their products. There is no flavor like single source, stone milled whole grain. This is truly what, for thousands of years, humankind called ‘the staff of life.’ Go buy anything from Castle Valley Mill. You won’t regret it.”