Molly Johnston is a baker on the go. She is the owner of a unique new food truck called Nomadic Pies, which debuted at local growers markets in May 2012. Nomadic Pies specializes in making savory meat pies, quiches, and sweet dessert pies. This summer, she will be a regular at the Anselma Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market in Chester Springs and also the Kennett Square Growers Market.
I first saw the Nomadic Pie Mobile at the Kennett Market, where Molly was filling orders from the perpetual line that snaked along the sidewalk off State Street. I asked which of her sweet pies was most “in season,” and she replied, “definitely the Strawberry Rhubarb.” I took her advice and our family enjoyed the pie on Father’s Day with scoops of vanilla ice cream. I wanted to learn more about the pie mobile, and Molly was nice enough to take time out of her busy schedule to tell me about her journey.
Molly told me her pie passion started as a kid. “I have been baking fruit pies since I was very young,” she explained. When she and her fiance moved to Baltimore for a year, she came across a shop called Dangerously Delicious Pies. “I walked in and told Rodney Henry (owner and founder) that I had plans to open my own pie shop someday and that I wanted to work for him, and he said, “okay, when can you start?”
Dangerously Delicious specializes in savory pies, and this is where Molly learned the art of crafting such pies as Pulled Pork BBQ, Steak Mushroom Gruyere, and Spicy Chicken Cilantro – to name just a few. She had stumbled into quite the apprenticeship. Rodney occasionally tours with his band The Glenmont Popes, and he gave Molly the opportunity to run the business while he was away. “Together we opened a second Dangerously Delicious location in Baltimore, in which I was his business partner, and I continued as a baker, and manager,” Molly explained. “I learned through trial and error. It was hugely trying, and hugely gratifying.”
When Molly’s fiance was reassigned to Allentown, Molly stayed behind in Baltimore for six more months. She finally moved back to Pennsylvania right before her wedding in September of 2011. By November, she had bought an old Morning Call newspaper delivery truck with plans to convert it into a pie mobile. “I took my interest in Dangerously Delicious, and bought the rights to the business for New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware,” she said. Now she makes Dangerously Delicious savory pies and hew own sweet pies.
“As far as converting the truck into a food truck goes, it was an adventure. I did my best to utilize the skills of my loved ones. I insulated the truck myself, my dad and I put in all of the wall paneling, my husband and dad did all of the electrical work, and together the three of us worked out the plumbing. It was fun, and challenging.”
Molly actually bakes the pies at a commercial kitchen in Highland Township. “A friend and I had her cheese room certified as a commercial kitchen, so when she isn’t making sheep cheese, I am baking pies.” She doesn’t do any cooking on the truck, but has refrigeration and a warming cabinet to hold the pies during transport.
Nomadic Pies is on the road two or three days each week.
“I do my best to source ingredients locally. In fact, starting next week my chicken pies will be chock full of label rouge, heritage breed, grass fed chickens raised by yours truly!” That’s right, in addition to starting her pie mobile, Molly is a chicken farmer. “At present I have over 180 birds. About 30 soon to be layers, the rest meat birds. I love it. I am a good chicken farmer!”
When not tending to chickens or baking pies, Molly works part-time at local farms. “Since I got the truck on the road, I work 2-3 days a week at Vollmecke Orchards and CSA in Coatesville. Karen Vollmecke is hands down the best farmer I have ever met. She grows seriously fantastic peaches, with which i make seriously fantastic peach pie! I love farming, and I love cooking, and most of all I love cooking with things I have farmed!”
Sometimes, she marvels at the whirlwind of a live she is living. “I never imagined that at 23 I would be married and running my own business. But, I met the man of my dreams in high school, and six years later we tied the knot, and the adventure with Dangerously Delicious in Baltimore gave me the confidence and know how to dive into entrepreneurship early! So here I am…”
“I am still finding my groove, but I am off to a fantastic start. I have been really well received at the markets I am participating in. I also hope to build a restaurant clientele in the fall/winter when the farmers market season comes to an end.”
Nomadic Pies can be found this summer at the Kennett Square Farmer’s Market and the Anselma Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market in Chester Springs. Molly will also be at the East Goshen Farmers’ Market once a month. You can follow Nomadic Pies on Facebook and Twitter or learn more at her website.