The aroma of fresh baking pizza fills my kitchen. The pies come from a kit purchased from Tag Team Kitchen, which opened in Kensington in July. Only 15 minutes earlier, I had brushed their pizza sauce (San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, dried thyme and basil, garlic powder) on two pre-baked 12-inch pizza crusts (one sourdough, one whole wheat) and garnished with a mixture of shredded mozzarella, Asiago and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses. After baking for about 10 minutes directly on the rack of a 400 degree oven, they came out crispy, golden crusted and bubbly brown.
Silver Spring resident and lifelong home baker Marianna Judy owns Tag Team Kitchen, where she sells pre-baked pizza crusts, pizza sauce and shredded cheese separately or in kits. She works alongside her 31-year-old son, Ben Stavely, who has autism. He particularly enjoys stretching the dough by hand and forming crusts.
The kitchen had previously helped Judy unwind from her job as a general and choral music teacher for Montgomery County Public Schools in elementary and middle school, which she left in 2009 to be a full-time caregiver for Ben and other family members. Then it became an avenue to address a challenge that many parents of adult autistic children face: finding something to give to Ben, who can read and write well but for whom verbal communication is not a point. strong, a sense of accomplishment and purpose. . “It became apparent that he wouldn’t be able to get a job and keep one,” says Judy. “If a manager gets it and leaves, the process has to start all over again. Their hours are reduced and they spend more time not working than working.
For inspiration, Judy and Ben volunteered at Red Wiggler Community Farm in Germantown, a non-profit certified organic farm where founder Woody Woodroof employs people with and without developmental disabilities. “[Woodroof] impacted a small number of people, but made a big difference in their lives,” says Judy. It resonated with her, so she took passions she and Ben shared – baking and pizza – and started selling crusts at the Olney Farmers’ and Artists’ Market and Kensington Farmers’ Market in 2016 (she and Ben still sell the crusts in the markets, as well as kits). It was a craft business that they could start at home and then grow. By 2017, she had added fewer shelf-stable items (tomato sauce and cheese) to her fare, so she had to move to a regulated commercial kitchen. She left that shared space in Rockville to find her own storefront to fulfill a mission to employ people of varying abilities. An employee came from Rockville’s Sunflower Bakery, which provides vocational training for adults with learning differences.
“Tag Team” has two meanings. Rather than using verbal communication, Judy uses body language to perform a step in the cooking process so that Ben can deduce what the next step is and execute it. “Ben is a smart young man, constantly solving problems and streamlining his work. He just does it without conversation,” Judy says. Additionally, his company teams up with customers because his products require final preparation at home.
The crusts come in 8-inch ($4.50) and 12-inch ($7) diameters and many iterations, including 100% white wheat, 100% whole wheat, 50 white/50 whole wheat, 50/50 with herbs and garlic parmesan. Alternative wheat crusts include brown rice and oats; almond and cassava; and brown rice and buckwheat. Pizza kits with sauce and cheese range from $12 to $24.
Tag Team Kitchen, 10453 Metropolitan Ave., Kensington, tagteamkitchen.com