James Markham's career in food has been an evolution of pizza. The Carlsbad-based founder of Project Pie, opening the first week of February, first started the Knockout Pizzeria locations in San Diego. Next, he journeyed to China to open and operate a New York-style pizza chain, and then returned to the west coast to develop two more artisanal pizza concepts, MOD Pizza and Pieology.
For his latest project, he's back in San Diego. With Project Pie, Markham hopes to develop the brand into the "Chipotle of fast-casual pizza", with the emphasis on fast; the 12 inch pizzas bake at 800 degrees in a custom gas-powered oven. Markham estimates the approximate wait between placing your order and receiving your ready-to-eat pie will clock in at less than four minutes; they cook faster because the pizzas are lighter and thinner than the traditional Neapolitan style, employing just six ounces of dough per serving.
The menu consists of nine pre-designed pizzas, or you can build you own with any amount or variety of toppings; all pies are $7.50. Beyond that, there are a few salads and hand-spun milkshakes; beer and wine are likely soon to follow.
After opening the 64 seat Hillcrest restaurant, Markham will focus on another store in Colorado. He's planning on expanding Project Pie throughout San Diego (he's got a eye on potential locations in Pacific Beach, Chula Vista, North County and Fashion Valley), then franchising the concept and potentially going global.
A serial entrepreneur, he also operates a waffle sandwich shop called Box'd in Carlsbad, which is housed in a repurposed shipping container that opens using hydraulics and runs on vegetable oil. Markham has a proprietary patent on the structure, and plans to use them for future Project Pie locations and sell them to other interested restaurant concepts.
· Project Pie [Official Site]
· All Project Pie Coverage on Eater [~ESD~]