Evan Eriksen, owner of Pie 95 Pizza in Jacksonville, Florida on The Hot Slice Podcast
This week, we hear the pizza journey of Evan Eriksen, who owns Pie 95 Pizza in Jacksonville, Florida, an artisan style, neighborhood pizzeria. His path to owning a pizza shop wasn’t a direct route and took him to some far-off places. After culinary school Evan worked with leading chefs in New York City, San Francisco and Sydney, Australia. But it was a pizza trailer that sparked his passion for pizza. Listen to Evan’s episode now.
Evan reached out to us on social wanting to share his journey to pizza. He sent us such a great story that we asked if we could share that with our followers. Here’s his story in his own words:
“As a young child I always was interested in food. Family gatherings and the group gatherings where everyone would partake in the dinner. So, this caused me to start cooking at a young age.”
Starting his Culinary Career
“After graduating high school, I had no idea what to do even though I worked in restaurants dish washing, bussing tables, and prepping. I thought of what was my childhood dream to be. I then recalled watching a series “Great Chefs” as a young boy and praised these chefs.
I decided to move to south Florida and go to culinary school. “Florida Culinary Institute” was the name at the time. All through college I paid rent, bills and tuition cooking around West Palm Beach. After graduating I realized to be great, I had to train with the best. Then moved to NYC. Sent my resume out to over 25 places and only heard back from 1. Gotham Bar and Grill. I set up an Interview and bought my plane ticket. Within 2 weeks I was working as veggie cook for an amazing 3-star New York time restaurant.
It was incredible for a 21 yr old. After many years of working in NYC for great chefs like Alfred Portale, Eric Ripert, Gabriel Kruenther and Ben Pollinger I had to go overseas. On a whim got my visa and was headed down under to Sydney, Australia. There I staged at Quay and briefly worked at Tetsuyas. While sitting in Manly work I had a pizza and beer. Realized life was about the simple things and not overly fancy food.”
The Light Bulb Moment Sparks Passion for Pizza
“After coming back to the States I headed west to good old San Francisco. Became Executive Sous at Ame restaurant in the St. Regis Hotel. Something was not right in my career. Some passion was gone I wanted to learn something. Then something happened. I saw this adorable concession trailer in Fishermans Wharf. Carmel Pizza Company. It was a 18ft concession trailer with a 120 Mugniani wood fired oven on the back. They were hiring! I said get the job and learn pizza in a few weeks then quit! Well, I got the “cook” position and absolutely fell in love. Knew that pizza was in my life forever.
After working there for almost 1.5 yrs I knew it was my moment. The moment I had to open my own pizzeria. Decided to come back east to Jacksonville Florida. The food truck scene was booming here. So built a concession trailer almost exactly like “Carmel” had across country sight unseen and spontaneously. Yeah, I know it was crazy.
Then hit the road with my trailer. I was taking every gig I could. Just wanted people to eat and try our pizza. It’s different, it’s unique, it’s artisan, it’s Pie95 Pizza! Food trucking come with a lot of great, but also hard scary times. From weather dangerous driving to blowouts on the trailer. The list can go on forever. Really wanted to showcase more of my skill then just what we served pizza and wings. Of course, for caterings we had more options, but showcase my passion “food”.”
Opening a Brick and Mortar Pizzeria
“After years of looking and saving all my money I found a quaint 950sqft juice bar in historic Riverside. Jacksonville, Florida. Signed the lease and started our build out. You only open your first restaurant once. So let’s enjoy this.
Our menu showcases of course wood fired pizza which we specialize in. It also has a lot of shared plates and starters. I’d like to give the patrons a dining experience in a new way. Not a traditional pizzeria, but more of an artisan style. Our building was built in 1927 and we want to celebrate that. In the food and in the decor. We run weekly specials and like to get creative with the menu. Seasonal roasted veggies, fun plays of Asian fusion, Italians twists. A fun global cuisine celebration. We look to grow the starters and some main courses of the menu in the future.”
This week’s The Hot Slice Podcast hosts are Senior Creative Director Josh Keown and Executive Editor Denise Greer.
Thanks to our sound engineer and designer Katie Wilson.