Fresh Dish: From pintxos to pizza

ON THE MOVE: Chefs Brittany Kroeyr-Brown and Matt Brown launched their mobile food business, Paperhouse Pizza, earlier this month. Both chefs had long careers working in high-profile restaurants in New York City, Chicago and Asheville before deciding to shift gears and hit the road. Photo by Caleb Johnson

When married chefs Brittany Kroeyr-Brown and Matt Brown arrived in Asheville in 2019, making pizza was not on their lists of career goals. But fate had other plans. 

This month, the couple roll out Paperhouse Pizza, a mobile restaurant concept that capitalizes on their combined industry experience, sourdough mastery and passion for great pie.

Following years of Michelin-star-studded experience in New York and Chicago — including at Bar Boulud, Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, Daniel, Alinea and Next — the chefs decided to put down roots in Brown’s native Western North Carolina, allowing them to be closer to his parents in Franklin and explore Asheville’s flourishing culinary scene. They both took jobs with Katie Button Restaurants (KBR) — Kroeyr-Brown in the role of culinary director and Brown ultimately helming La Bodega by Cúrate as chef de cuisine when it opened in 2022.

Later that same year, Kroeyr-Brown left KBR to begin developing a restaurant concept, and Brown followed in late 2023. While hosting pop-ups around the area, they took business classes at Mountain BizWorks and eventually found a spot to open their dream restaurant. But in December, the deal for the lease on the space fell through, and they shifted their plans to pizza on wheels.

The Paperhouse Pizza trailer debuted early this month with a menu of sourdough-crust pies, salads and starters, including arancini and charcuterie. The couple will keep the tires moving on their pizza business this summer, scheduling frequent dates at a variety of locations around Western North Carolina. 

“We still have designs on having a brick-and-mortar eventually; I still think that’s the destination,” says Brown. “But in the meantime, in addition to this being something we can execute now, I think this is a really great way to drum up awareness, hitting a bunch of different spots. It’s not going to be easy, but I think it’ll pay off.”

As part of Xpress‘ ongoing “Fresh Dish” feature, we sat down with the two chefs to talk about their new mobile restaurant, pizza research and why bitter greens are beautiful.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Xpress: After long careers in high-end restaurants and focusing on Spanish cuisine at La Bodega by Cúrate, how did you land on pizza?

Brown: When I first got hired with KBR, it was actually to head up an event space that they had been planning at the time where the Bodega is now. The upstairs was going to be the event space and downstairs was Button and Co. Bagels. There were a lot of conversations about what to do at the bagel shop at night when we didn’t have an event, and one of the ideas was to use the deck ovens that were there for the bagels to make pizza. And that was kind of the genesis of it. 

You know, I didn’t really have any experience making pizza — I shouldn’t even qualify that; I just had no experience making pizza. So I bought some books and tried to teach myself how to make dough, learning about bread-making, dough-making, starting there as kind of the foundation. And I really took to it right away. 

When we lived in New York, we always talked about wanting to have a restaurant together someday. And we would plan these elaborate menus, really drawing on fine dining and stuff. And meanwhile, on our days off, we would find ourselves in these restaurants like Roberta’s in Bushwick or Franny’s that used to be in Park Slope … that were pizza restaurants, but with great beverage programs, great cocktail lists, great wine lists, great salads and sides and seasonal produce. 

Kroeyr-Brown: Those are the kinds of places we like to eat. Not that we don’t enjoy fine dining, but it’s just more that it’s something for everyone. 

Tell me about your pizza.

Brown: The pizza that we’ve arrived at is sourdough-based. If you’re going to categorize it, it’s not Neapolitan but on the other hand, it’s definitely not slice-oriented. It’s artisanal dough, naturally leavened, long fermentation; so we get a really, airy crumb contained within a blistered, crispy exterior. 

As far as the toppings, I wouldn’t say it’s minimalist, but I’d say it’s just very thoughtfully topped, trying to pick out a few really special ingredients to highlight. 

Kroeyr-Brown: When you eat it, it’s not something that brings you down where you feel like, ugh, I just ate a whole pizza. It’s gut-friendly, and I think that comes from the sourdough and from the flours we’re using. We’re still continually tweaking our dough, trying to use some local Carolina Ground flour with Italian double O [very finely ground flour] that allows us to get the airiness in the crust that we’re really striving for.

We’ve been eating a lot of pizza. We took a trip to New York last July, and I think we ate at 11 pizza restaurants in like three days. We’re trying to see what other people are doing, tasting their dough, kind of getting an idea where we want to be how we want to top our pizzas. Like Matt said, we’re not minimalist but really trying to hit on the flavor profiles that we want with the ingredients that are on the pizzas. 

We’re going to try to use as much local produce as possible. I think that’s important. When I worked for Katie Button Restaurants, part of my job was connecting with local farmers, so we want to stick with that. We also want to use the best ingredients possible. So we’ll try to use a lot of local charcuterie, but if there’s something that we’re really drawn to that’s Italian or something like that, we’ll use that as well. 

What dish on your menu do you feel people don’t order enough?

Brown: I definitely encourage people to venture beyond just the margherita pizza and pepperoni. … If you’ve got a table of four, I’m not going to tell anyone they shouldn’t order a margherita — it’s a classic for a reason. But make your second pizza something that is more interpretive, more off the beaten path, because those are the places where we can kind of draw on our backgrounds and maybe show some of our culinary lineage, as well as highlighting really special product. And the same kind of goes for salads and arancini. … In my mind, I would want it to be so someone could come to our pizza trailer and not even get pizza and still feel like they had a great dining experience. That’s important to us.

What’’s a local dish either of you tried recently that left a big impression?

Brown: I guess I’ll just say the roast chicken at Tall John’s. That’s our favorite restaurant, and it’s a place that has what we were talking about with those neighborhoody pizza places that we like so much. They don’t do pizza there, obviously, but if you think about an X-Y axis of concept execution, they nail it. And the roast chicken — I could pick any number of dishes there — but that kind of exemplifies that for me. Just beautifully crispy, golden brown skin; nice pan sauce. Supersimple. 

Kroeyr-Brown: I would go with Little Chango. [Chef and co-owner] Iris [Rodriguez] and I worked at Cúrate together when we first moved here, and they’re doing tasty, amazing food out of such a small space. 

What’s a seasonal ingredient you feel home cooks should embrace more?

Brown: Chicories, bitter greens like radicchio, endive and chicory frisee. It has a couple of different little pockets of seasons. I think it’s most closely associated with the fall, but you find that stuff now at the farmers markets, too, as far as like, lola rosa [lettuce]. To me, starting a salad with bitter, crunchy greens gives you the possibility to complement that bitterness in a way that you can bring sweetness and round fatty flavors into the salad, more than if you’re just doing romaine or some sort of mixed baby greens where it might throw the balance off. And they obviously thrive here. If you go to the market, you’ll see lots of different stands that have that kind of stuff, and I think it’s underutilized, if what you see at the grocery store is any representation. There aren’t a lot of options there.

What type of cuisine do you think we need more of in Asheville?

Kroeyr-Brown: Szechuan. Szechuan food is definitely something from New York that I miss.

Do you have a favorite food destination within driving distance of Asheville? 

Brown: Nashville. We don’t get to go as often as we’d like, but we’ve had two really great experiences there, and we’re definitely going back, time permitting. That’s an example of a very multifaceted food scene that has the trendy natural wine bars, but also it has everything from the meat-and-three kind of restaurants all the way up to fine dining, chef’s counter type places. That’s my favorite regional food city so far.

For the next “Fresh Dish” interview, chefs Brown and Kroeyr-Brown have tagged pastry chef Camille Cogswell.


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