The Back 40 Farm – Helen and Al Arends

Helen and Al Arends are very special to Fire Within. They are in their 4th year of operation, operating The Back 40 in Minnesota. With a large family, and some great ideas, these farm-lebrities are revolutionizing the way a community can be built around the mobile pizza industry.

This is our fourth season in mobile wood-fired pizza service.

Our town hosts a live music event every summer, called Rockin Robbins. Thousands of people attend admission-free. It is our town’s favorite get-together. I’d say it is our most favorite event to cook for. We usually get placed right next to the stage and have the longest line, even though now we can make pizzas super fast. The energy of summer fun, live music, and happy people make it an event we look forward to all year. Besides the fun of making pizzas to great live music, there are a couple of other reasons it is our favorite: 1. Short duration: we are there for 3 hours of solid pizza making and never stop. There might be a second for a quick gulp of water, but otherwise, we serve non-stop until we run out. 2. No leftovers. Ever. We also enjoy catering graduation parties and corporate events when we have a good idea of how many people will be in attendance.

We were very impressed by how caring and unassuming Fire Within team was when we came to (Wood Fired University) in Denver, CO. To be honest, we were expecting the training itself to be a way to get you to a high-pressure sales event. We couldn’t have been more wrong. We learned everything we needed to know about properly running a commercial mobile wood fired pizza operation at the training event and actually had to ask the staff how to purchase one of their ovens — as the focus was solely on sharing the knowledge and the expertise of mobile wood-fired catering. Once we asked, the process was fast, professional, easy, and efficient. They helped us figure out the best fit for us out of the options made available by the company. We ordered our oven in February and it was delivered to us in Minnesota in early May, just in time to run a few practice events and successfully launch our business.

We have a lot of fun developing our own pizza recipes as well. Most of the time, we think of a favorite meal, homecooked, or enjoyed at a restaurant, and then put it on a pizza. One example: we love Zuppa Toscana soup from Olive Garden, so we took all its main elements and put it on our pizza: white garlic sauce, turkey sausage, red pepper flakes, fresh kale, steamed sliced baby potatoes, and cheese. It is one of our most favorite pizzas! If only we had a dollar for every time somebody said, potatoes on a pizza?!

Don’t be afraid to go out and make pizzas for public. You will make mistakes, but every mistake is simply a step forward to a better skill. Find a mentor within the Fire Within community. We were very blessed to have found a mentor and a friend with a few years of experience, who coached us along. We are now fast friends and co-workers.


Marinate chicken overnight in wine, citrus juice, garlic, onions, fresh herbs from the garden

Roast in roasting environment (some live fire) for 1 hour. Let stand 15 minutes

We made this chicken for Magnolia network show we hosted at our farm last summer, Family Dinner with Andrew Zimmern. It can be viewed on Discovery plus.

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