When the COVID-19 pandemic upended business for West Allis-based Tall Guy and a Grill Catering, executive chef Dana Spandet cooked up a new idea: a traveling wood-fired pizza concept, now known as Flour Girl & Flame. Stuck at home during the early days of quarantine, Spandet experimented with grilling homemade pizza, using edible flowers from the garden as toppings. Fun family dinners soon turned into a business plan centered on sourcing ingredients from Milwaukee’s urban farms as well as Black-, woman-, and LGBT-owned vendors. As she continued to develop the concept, Spandet saw opportunities beyond pizza. Today, its special events menu includes everything from wood-roasted oysters to fire-roasted veggies.
- June 2020: Spandet began searching for used mobile wood-fired pizza trailers, and with help from her dad, found one for sale in the area. Meanwhile, she bought several books on wood-fired pizza and stayed up late reading about the process. She also researched the health and environmental benefits of using organic heirloom heritage flour rather than commercial grade.
- July 2020 : The 8,000-pound, 15-foot-long Maine Wood Heat Co. trailer was delivered by flatbed truck. It sat in Spandet’s driveway for the first month while she perfected her technique, making pizza for her family every day. The oven holds warmth for several days after reaching its 1,000-degree peak.
- August 2020: Flour Girl & Flame held its first public event, selling nearly 100 pizzas. There were some hiccups, but it was a promising start. “I assumed this was going to be a seasonal gig, that we’d probably work May to October and then be done. And we just never stopped.”
- December 2020: The trailer set up shop at Zocalo Food Truck Park in Milwaukee for the winter. Operating partially outdoors, Spandet learned how to regulate the temperature of her dough with heated blankets. The business was outgrowing the space it shared with Tall Guy and a Grill, so Spandet signed a lease at 8121-23 W. National Ave., West Allis, to open a prep kitchen and retail storefront.
- Spring 2021: Flour Girl & Flame currently sells 500 to 600 pizzas each weekend. It already has more than 20 private events booked this season, in between pop-ups at area food truck parks and street festivals. The business recently began producing and retailing hot honey products, using honeybees stationed on the roof of its new West Allis space. The storefront will have its grand opening in June to coincide with Pride Month.