A paladin is a knight with a strong ethical, even religious motivation – he cruises for good and honor, and is known for his chivalry. It’s known as a class in Dungeons & Dragons, game chef and pizza maker Leo Brill is particularly passionate about. But the reason for the name Paladin Pie, the pop-up pizza and future food cart, was more than just a reference to a tabletop game; it was about the ethics of the project itself.
“A paladin is someone who is committed to achieving certain personal goals, some system of morality that guides them,” says Brill. “I don’t think I’m a beacon of morality, but I want to do everything I can.”
Paladin Pie started out as a pop-up in the age of the pandemic, after being fired from Portland pizzeria Oven & Shaker. He borrowed an Ooni pizza oven from a friend and began raising money for organizations such as Don’t Shoot PDX, Mxm Bloc and other bail funds related to the racial justice protest. Now, nearly two years later, Brill will be opening Paladin Pie as a food cart in northeastern Alberta, preparing food and raising funds for various charity projects.
Living in upstate New York, Brill grew up around pizza; he says countless trips to the city allowed a passion for pizza to take over “by osmosis.” He and his bandmate decided to move to Portland to pursue music – Brill is in a band called Mouthbreather – and worked at places like Levant before moving to Oven & Shaker. He began experimenting with his own approach to pizza dough at home, which became the basis for Paladin Pie’s: a two-day sourdough starter at around 70% hydration, which gives it a fluffier, more airy crust. fluffy. “A lot of places I’ve worked have done sourdough,” Brill says. “It stands out so much more, it complements savory toppings so well, it can be so deep in flavor [in a way] that dry yeast or fresh yeast can’t really do.
At the Paladin Pie Cart, Brill will slide these sourdough pizzas through a wood-fired oven, giving the pies an extra layer of flavor and char. The cart will produce both whole pies and slices, with a range of traditional – pepperoni, vegan marinara, cheese – and Paladin-specific topping combinations. For example, Druid is topped with roasted mushrooms, parmesan cream, mozzarella, basil, and lemon, and Jazz Cabbage pairs mozzarella and cheddar with bacon and kimchi. The Red Dragon is a tribute to its home country, a Buffalo Chicken Pizza with Frank’s, Chicken, Red Onion and House Ranch.
In addition to pizza, Paladin Pie will offer vegetable sides like smashed cucumbers with crispy Calabrian chili and almonds, as well as cheese bread and his house hot sauce, named after his band – Mouthbreather hot sauce uses a mix of chili de arbol and guajillo with pineapple and chocolate.
While the menu is locked, one facet of the Paladin Pie food cart that Brill is also working on is its approach to its original mission, to use its craft for the benefit of the community. “Since moving to Portland, I’ve wanted to open a food cart, make the most of the self-help concept, and apply it to the business model,” he says. “From this starting point, I want to keep stocking up on free fridges, doing welfare benefits, feeding people any way I can. And also make a good place to work […] I understood that during the pandemic, working is part of life, it doesn’t have to be your whole life. For the time you spend there, you should have fun, otherwise what’s the point?
Paladin Pie will open in March at the 23rd and Alberta food cart pod.
• Paladin Pie [Instagram]
• A Nostrana Elder’s Dungeons & Dragons Themed Pizza Cart is Coming to Alberta [PoMo]