Reesa Kashuk and three friends, all Colby College students, lounged in the grass waiting for their hand-tossed pizza topped with organic ingredients to finish baking in Bennett Collins’ mobile wood-fired oven set up on Route 1B in Damariscotta.

“We just saw it on the side of the road, and it looked like it was worth pulling over,” Kashuk said.

Collins, who lives in Bremen, is one of four artisan pizza makers whose mobile ovens have been appearing around Maine on roadsides and at farmers markets, public events and private parties.

Here’s a look at who these itinerant entrepreneurs are, and where you can find them: 

NAME: Bennett Collins, Harvest Moon Pizza

WHERE HE’LL BE THIS FALL:

• Rising Tide Community Market, 323 Main St., Damariscotta; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 9 and 16

• Common Ground Fair, Sept. 23-25, Unity Fairgrounds, Unity. Gates open at 9 a.m.

• Swine and Stein, Gardiner; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 2

• Pumpkinfest, Damariscotta, Columbus Day weekend.

TRY THIS PIE: Maple and sage sausage with peppers and caramelized onions

HOW MUCH: Slices range from $5 to $7; whole 16-inch pies, $19 to $23

INFO: on.fb.me/mR8b55  

The college students open the box containing their zucchini, caramelized onion and roasted garlic pizza, and the first reaction is “Oh, my god.”

“I can’t wait to eat it,” Kashuk said.

“And it’s nice that it’s organic,” her friend Courtney Yeager added.

On today’s menu is a three-cheese pizza, a Margherita, a pesto pie and, of course a veggie pizza.

Collins’ crust, light yet dense and earthy, is made from a dough that’s half King Arthur organic bread flour and half Maine whole wheat.

The vegetables he tops his pizzas with — peppers, onions, tomatoes, garlic, red onion and zucchini — all come from his own half-acre garden. His pesto is made from basil that was harvested just yesterday.

Collins seasons the pork for the sausage himself. His cheese pizza is a blend of organic mozzarella, Parmesan from Longfellow’s Creamery in Avon, and asiago from Sonnental, an Amish dairy in Smyrna where cheese is aged in an ice house.

The oven takes three or four hours to heat up to the right temperature, but once it’s hot, pizzas take just three to five minutes to bake on the clay-brick hearth. At 800 degrees, the cheese starts to bubble after just a minute or two.

“People love it, and the whole experience of throwing the dough and making it right there where they can see it,” Collins said. “The fire’s important to the whole experience.”

Collins has never been a baker. He had been doing landscaping work when he decided he wanted to transition into food.

His interest in farming led to his interest in pizza, which he figured would be a good value-added product to pursue. His pizza would promote agriculture and be more profitable than selling vegetables alone.

When Collins and his partner heard that Mother Oven Bakery in Bowdoinham was going out of business, they decided to buy the bakery’s portable oven, which had been a fixture at the Common Ground Fair, and other equipment.

“It seemed like a good idea, but we weren’t sure,” Collins said. “So we had the idea that would continue with our regular jobs and do the Common Ground Fair, and see how it went.”

Collins played around with the oven last year, learning as he went along. He occasionally made pizzas locally on Saturdays and took the oven back to the Common Ground Fair. He also churned out hot pizza in the dead of winter at the U.S. National Toboggan Championships in Camden. “We realized if we could do that, we could do anything,” he said.

This summer was Collins’ first full season. He’s been setting up in the parking lot at Round Top Farm, but in September will move to Rising Tide Community Market. He’s also sold pizza at some big events, including the North Atlantic Blues Festival in Rockland and the Maine Antiques Festival in Union, which he says can be “tricky” from a business standpoint.

“They can be really good, and they can be a lot of work for not a lot of return,” he said. “And the satisfaction is not as good as when you’re set up in town and you can really focus on quality and focus on people who are friends and neighbors. I definitely get a lot more satisfaction out of that than just sort of feeding strangers who are on the move, if that makes sense.”

Collins has his regulars in Damariscotta. They come early in the day and place orders for dinner take-out, or they place an order and then go run a few errands before returning to pick up their pie. Collins has had requests for catering, but is holding off on that until next year.

“I considered doing one of the farmers markets in Damariscotta, but the timing wasn’t quite right,” he said. “Another issue was I didn’t want to be too many places at once. But that’s sort of a natural fit for this, and as a farm-to-table project, it definitely makes sense to try to cultivate that crowd, the farmers market audience that is already oriented towards fresh and local.” 

NAME: Andrew Steinberg, Pizza By Fire

WHERE HE’LL BE THIS FALL: Steinberg mostly caters private parties, but on Sept. 24, he’ll be at the Maine Lakes Brewfest, which will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Point Sebago Resort in Casco. His season runs through October.

TRY THIS PIE: Bacon, scallion and goat cheese

HOW MUCH: $9 to $11 for individual pies at public events; private parties start at $475 for pizza only for 25 people (salads are extra)

INFO: 228-2087; email [email protected]; pizzabyfire.com

Andrew Steinberg has just been informed that the guests at the private event he’s catering are clamoring for another bacon, scallion and goat cheese pizza.

This is the first time he’s baked this particular combination of ingredients in his portable pizza oven, and apparently the pie is a hit.

“I guess I have to come up with a good name for it now,” he joked.

Steinberg’s flourishing new pizza business grew out of his passion for artisan bread baking and a fascination with the mobile food movement that has been so popular in larger cities.

A broker of building materials, Steinberg prepared himself for the transition to baking by taking classes at the Stone Turtle Baking and Cooking School in Lyman and attending the annual Kneading Conference in Skowhegan, where he could meet with and learn from more experienced bakers.

In April, the mobile pizza oven with fire brick tiles that Steinberg bought from a Colorado company arrived. The Italian-made oven is perched atop a bright-red trailer that has storage for a sink and hook-ups for hot and cold running water. He also has a separate countertop for prepping pizzas.

“I’m making (the dough) very much in the same way that I might make a naturally leavened artisan bread, so I’m using high-quality flours,” Steinberg said. “I’m definitely using quality local ingredients when I can find them.”

His sausage and bacon come from Luce’s Meats in North Anson. Instead of sauce, he uses crushed tomatoes from Jersey Farms. Most people source their San Marzano tomatoes from California or Italy, but Steinberg prefers this brand he discovered from a farmers co-op in New Jersey.

“It’s just so flavorful,” he said. “You open the can, you’d swear it was fresh an hour ago. The color, the texture, the flavor. They do nothing to it. They take it off the farm. Within 24 hours, it’s canned and it’s packed. And it’s incredible.”

Steinberg has taken his oven to Jordan’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth (where he buys a lot of his veggie toppings) three times this summer, and he has made pizza at a number of public events, such as Cape Family Fun Day at Fort Williams Park, South Portland’s Art in the Park, the Norway Arts Festival and the Tri for a Cure races.

But he mostly caters private parties — wedding rehearsals, bar mitzvahs and anniversary parties. This month, he’ll be doing a private event on Peaks Island, and will have to load his wood-fired oven onto the ferry.

Steinberg’s crust comes out of the oven light, airy, thin and hot — and addictive. He makes up pizzas as he goes along, and takes requests from hungry party-goers.

“When things are baking in the oven in a minute and half or two minutes, there’s almost an instant gratification to trying something new,” he said. “What’s really interesting is someone will come over and say, ‘Oh, we need another one with the sausage,’ and ‘How about we throw some mushroom in there?’ “

The public’s favorite pie — at least until the bacon, scallion and goat cheese creation wowed folks at the recent party — is the Abe Froman, named after the “Sausage King of Chicago” in the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” It’s got hot Italian sausage, crushed tomatoes and mozzarella.

Steinberg’s other creations include a pie with salami, cherry tomatoes, red onions, cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. His white pie has cherry tomatoes, garlic and mozzarella. A dessert pizza is made with sliced peaches and blueberries topped with a brown sugar crumble.

When it comes out of the oven, Steinberg drizzles the pizza with maple syrup and sprinkles it with powdered sugar. “I’m looking forward to doing this with apples,” he said.

For children, Steinberg keeps things simple with an easy tomato and cheese pizza, or just a focaccia-like hot crust that’s been sprinkled with rosemary and sea salt.

“We did a party on Saturday, and the kids, that’s all they wanted,” he said.

 

NAME: Jessica Shepherd, Uproot Pie Co.

WHERE SHE’LL BE THIS FALL: Camden Farmers Market from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and from 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays; Rockland Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursdays; Union Farmers Market from 2 to 6 p.m. Fridays.

Shepherd also attends Tuesday-night Wine Nights at Oyster River Winegrowers in Warren, which begin at 5 p.m..

TRY THIS PIE: Smoked ham, cream cheese and scallion pizza with an egg on top

HOW MUCH: Individual 9-inch pies range from $7 to $9.50; catering costs $250 for a set-up fee, pay per pizza after that with a 30-pizza minimum

INFO: 370-1568; email [email protected]; on.fb.me/oHt0yl 

Jessica Shepherd of Union is the only mobile artisan pizza maker in Maine who has lots of experience making wood-fired pizzas.

After getting a degree in baking and patisserie from the Western Culinary Institute (now known as Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts) in the other Portland, Shepherd worked at a wood-fired bakery in North Carolina, where she made lunch pizzas. She then moved back to Oregon, where she used a mobile oven to bake bagels, pitas and other baked goods.

Shepherd considered opening a pizza-and-beer joint. Then in February, her boyfriend, Andy White, offered to build a mobile oven for her. She was in farmers markets by May.

Shepherd has a menu of three to four pizzas at each market, and she buys most of her meat and vegetables from the farmers there. She uses canned tomatoes, but makes her own sauce. She uses smoked ham from Smith’s Log Smokehouse in Monroe.

Her smoked salmon, dilled sour cream, red onion and caper pie uses smoked salmon from Ducktrap River in Belfast. Some of her sausage comes from Terra Optima Farm in Appleton.

“Guini Ridge Farm has a Moroccan-type sausage that people love, so I almost always have a cheese-and-sausage pizza on the menu,” Shepherd said.

At her first visit to a farmers market, she made 40 pizzas and they sold out in an hour. At the Rockland market, she has sold up to 96 pies in just three hours.

“It’s great that people love food, and they love local food, but I really want this whole Uproot thing to evolve some more than just serving food,” Shepherd said. “I want it to bring attention to all the great things that are happening in the midcoast, and how much we really need to support the farms.” 

NAME: Ryan Carey, Pizza Pie on the Fly

WHERE HE’LL BE THIS FALL: Maine Lakes Brewfest, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 24 at Point Sebago Resort in Casco; Dempsey Challenge, Oct. 8-9 in Lewiston; Harvestfest in York, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 15 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 16

TRY THIS PIE: Tomato, basil and mozzarella with sea salt

HOW MUCH: $4 to $5 per slice

INFO: 299-6995; facebook.com/pizzapieonthefly; email [email protected] 

Ryan Carey has been in the hospitality business his whole life, including his current gig as a bartender at Sebago Brewing.

About a year ago, preparing to settle down and get married, he got a sales job. But six months into it, he knew he just wasn’t meant to work behind a desk.

Carey quit his job, and he and his fiance went to Naples, Fla., on a vacation to re-group. That was where lightning struck. He was walking around a farmers market, thinking “What am I going to do with my life?” when he saw a guy selling pizzas from a mobile wood-fired oven.

“I compare it to when John Lennon saw Elvis for the first time and he realized what he wanted to do,” Carey said. “I literally buckled in the knees.”

He talked to the pizza maker on the spot, then made arrangements to sit down and pick his brain the next day.

That was Dec. 13. Carey, who lives in Portland, spent the winter trying to get business loans, working on business plans and selling himself to events. He only got his oven, built by a western Maine mason, eight weeks ago.

“As soon as I got the oven, there wasn’t much time for a learning curve,” he said. “I just had to jump right into it.”

His first event was the Seacoast Country Music Festival in Scarborough with a crowd of 11,000. He also worked the Maine State Pier concerts, KahBang, the American Folk Festival in Bangor and the Saltwater Celtic Music Festival in Brunswick. He has booked events into November.

Currently, he makes cheese pizza, pepperoni pizza and a white pie with tomato, basil and mozzarella topped with sea salt.

“My philosophy right now is keep it simple — do a few things and do them well,” he said.

Carey hopes to expand to backyard catering, business lunches and farmers markets during the next year. He is already booked for the Falmouth farmers market next summer, when he hopes this will be a full-time job.

For now, Carey is still bartending 40 hours a week, but spends the rest of his time making pizzas. (Except for last weekend, when he got married.)

“It’s been the best summer of my entire life,” he said. “It’s just been unbelievable.”

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at [email protected]