Kaleigh Gardner is the founder of the pizza-loving-instagram-turned-pizzaiolo @itsthepizzaslut . She recently spoke with us about her background and her jump leaving behind her old job to make pizza full time.
Tasty Chomps – How did you find your love of pizza?
Kaleigh Gardner @itsthepizzaslut – Growing up in a household ran by two chefs on the beach in South Florida, I learned from a young age that food and cooking have always had my heart. When I was a kid my parents were always in the kitchen which meant a lot of fresh fish, steaks, crazy Italian, Irish recipes, and more. So we never really eat out very much and having pizza was a rarity for me (only on Fridays, if we were lucky).
From elementary to high school I remember sitting at lunches and I would trade my homemade subs with anyone who would swap me a slice of pizza in return.
After I graduated, I began traveling the world with the sole purpose of eating the best food and known dishes in each state or country, and began a food blog with my best friend because I truly loved sharing food with others but, the quest was ALWAYS, ALWAYS PIZZA.
And it wasn’t just, oh grab a slice and go, I wanted to see how they made their dough, and ask whoever was making the pizza or the owner what encouraged them to start making pizza or how they learned.
On a quick 24 hour trip to Manhattan, standing on 39th st., I had found myself 20 something pizza stops in … and it hit me, I was literally flying around, or “getting around” to every pizza shop that was named or known … I was, in fact, a PIZZA SLUT.
I had this fear I was gonna miss out on a slice or square, and I wanted to find the best one and tell everyone about it … I took out my phone and immediately changed my Instagram, @itsthepizzaslut.
Soon it was 5-day trips with things like hitting 7 different states and 64 pizza spots in 120 hours. I started attending Pizza festivals, attending and judging competitions, jumping behind the oven at spots that would allow me and events all over the world!
I was meeting pizza people from all over the world, some world champions, many Italians, and aspiring pizzaiolos. Anthony Falco, Tony Geminani, Chris Decker, Vincent Rotolo, Matt Hyland, Scott Weiner, Nicole Bean, and many more. Always watching very carefully and soaking up as much as I could like a sponge.
What made you want to start your own pizza company?
I’ve hit over 400 pizzerias in the country and counting, I always felt like something was missing. But eating the best pizzas all over the world, how could I compare and also if I ever made pizza, I wanted it to be the kind I loved the most to begin then master all doughs in the future.
Going into it with a different mindset, I thought I’ve learned from some of the best , why not put that into action… so I began my journey in making sourdough Neapolitan-ISH pizzas.
I bought one little Roccbox woodfired ovens and offered to make pizza for a few friends, they said it was good enough to buy, so I figured I’d try and sell it solely to share my love of pizza with the world.
My second popup resulted in selling out 63 sourdough pies in an hour and fifteen minutes at a little coffee shop in MT. DORA.
Soon I was finding popups at breweries, wine shops, and even coffee shops. Demand called for more ovens and it became three Roccboxes, more tables, more boxes, and bringing more like 130 dough to each pop-up! Selling out or getting very close to sell out each time! (Thank you Orlando & all my following pizza sluts) I was finally doing it! But I wanted it to be called more of a “Pizza PARTY!” I loved the sense of pop-ups because you can switch the menu to compliment each venue, or your always running into new people or your regular followers who are in the “KNOW” !
What are some pizzas you can find on the menu?
Although my signature pie which you can find every time, She likes it HOT” is a spicy pepperoni pizza with pickled chilies and mikes hot honey!
Some in the know pizza, for example, my “Flat White” pizza , which is fresh mozzarella, goat cheese, honey, lavender espresso pecorino, and brown butter breadcrumbs was made for Qreate Coffee Shop!
I love infusing pizza with things you wouldn’t naturally expect to taste good! My sourdough is a good base for lots of yummy ideas! Or one of my favorite Venues, Conrad Shanty’s has the “Thai ME UP” which is a spicy Thai chicken pizza with sprouts and chili oil! Or bringing Wally’s Bar and liquor store a special chicken alla vodka pizza! Or my French Dip ZA w/ side of JUS will only be brought out for special ones!! So you can almost always try a different pizza while finding me!
I think everyone knows I’m pizza obsessed but I do just want everyone I meet to love pizza as much as me, and enjoy my style and creativity!
My plans are to continue to pop-up around mostly Mills50 District, but also all around Orlando and maybe even the country at some point! I do know that I love making pizza and sharing my love for pizza is absolutely my calling.
Where can people find you?