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click to enlarge Lecsi Prince and Cameron Calder in front of the Cam's Pizza stall at the Arcata Farmers Market.

Photo by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

Lecsi Prince and Cameron Calder in front of the Cam's Pizza stall at the Arcata Farmers Market.

Lecsi Prince, co-owner of the mobile Cam's Pizza stand, jokes that pizza was her partner Cameron Calder's first solid food.

"My parents put pizza in a blender," Calder responds, laughing. They're joking, right? He did grow up in and around pizza parlors, though, with his father David the namesake founder of David's Pizza in the Stockton area, and separate pizza places run by his uncle and brother. "We're the only ones rolling around," he says.

And roll they do, from their rented spot at the Arcata Food Works commercial kitchen to the Saturday farmers market on the plaza and to the lot at Old Growth Cellars in Eureka on Friday evenings, where the Cam's Pizza pop-up tent has been drawing return customers for the last five weeks.

Calder says he started making his own pizza "soon as I could reach the counter," and got to work in the business washing dishes at age 13. The family is committed to California pizza, as opposed to a strictly traditional Italian pie, using a recipe that originated in a Bay Area restaurant. "We like pineapple on our pizza," he says, and a side of homemade ranch is always an option. "If ranch doesn't have to be refrigerated, I don't want it."

The dough he and Prince use is a little different than his family's versions. "If you looked at 'em all, you could tell they all stem from the same but they're all different," says Calder. Mondako flour is what his family has always used and the pair haven't found anything they love better, but you never know. "It's kinda more how you treat it," he says, noting the low-and-slow, multi-day fermentation — without adding sugar, if possible — and a dusting of semolina flour gives the crust its finely pebbled surface, steamy air pockets and lightly chewy pull. But he's not precious about the recipe. "I've got a theory that you can't make bad pizza, you can only charge too much for it."

Prince says he's asked her to keep him experimenting. "He said, 'If I don't start playing with the recipe for like a month, you gotta tell me.'" She's happy to join in the process. "I'm definitely one of those science nerds. When we first met, I knew nothing about pizza," she says. "I was eating gluten-free pizza at the time."

"She had me eating gluten free," Calder interjects.

Back then, they were students at Humboldt State University, Prince studying kinesiology and Calder majoring in finance. Her health issues eventually resolved and she's happily back on stretchy wheat dough. And very into pizza science since geeking out on seminars about dough at a pizza expo they attended. (The speed box folding, pizza tossing and dancing-with-dough competitions were entertaining bonuses.) Eventually, they may even develop a gluten-free option they like.

The Cam's Pizza oven is not the usual mobile setup because it's not made to travel. "We bought our oven and we had to convert it to propane had to put feet on it," says Calder, who estimates the unit's weight at about 750 pounds and compares it to "wheeling around a tank." With four decks, it resembles a massive tool cabinet and can turn out eight pies at a go with some well-timed shuffling to keep things baking evenly. "It was fun getting it and repainting it and making it look nice and now we broke it," he says with a big laugh.

Prince is chuckling, too, recounting how one of the feet broke off in transit and, while it still bakes pizzas just fine, it's rough to load and unload as is. "It'll be something we'll look back and laugh at when we have our place," she says. To make their appearances at Old Growth Cellars, they may have to call a couple of friends into service. "We may have to get 'em a bottle of wine and pay 'em in pizza."

The modestly priced menu is changing week to week, with a rotating special pie, occasional 12-inch pies and calzones, as well as a couple non-pizza appetizers like bacon-wrapped dates. But the Margherita is a staple item, with an intense tomato base, mozzarella, sliced grape tomatoes, fresh basil and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. And a side of ranch, of course, for die-hard Californians. The pepperoni is a solid contender, too, with flavor and crustiness to take those fortunate enough to have misspent their youth in pizza parlors right back there.

Prince is also baking up treats to balance out the savory, like her popular red velvet Oreo cookies. "I wouldn't call myself necessarily a baker, it's more the fact that I just have such a big sweet tooth." She's a personal trainer but, counter to expectations, doesn't berate clients about sugar, acutely aware of its pleasures and the futility of cutting sweets entirely. Lately she's working on a cinnamon roll recipe to sell in the early hours of the farmers market. Not that it's ever too early for pizza.

Cam's Pizza is set to show up for more markets and in more lots as the weather warms up. "We started in the worst time of the year to be mobile in Humboldt County," says Calder. "The wind is a huge factor," and has already cost them a tent. They've been poking around at possible brick-and-mortar locations. "To have a home base we can work out of would be nice," he says, but with summer's markets, fairs and festivals on the horizon, there's no rush.

"It's what I know," says Calder. "I went to school and I was like, 'What else could I be?' Then I graduated and I was like, 'Pizza.'"

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill (she/her) is the arts and features editor at the Journal. Reach her at (707) 442-1400, extension 320, or Follow her on Instagram @JFumikoCahill and on Mastodon @jenniferfumikocahill.

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About The Author

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill is the arts and features editor of the North Coast Journal. She won the Association of Alternative Newsmedia’s 2020 Best Food Writing Award and the 2019 California News Publisher's Association award for Best Writing.

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