Meet Blue Ridge Pizza Co.’s new owners

Former Clifton Inn chef Yannick Fayolle and restaurant veteran Nikki Benedikt plan to revamp the Blue Ridge Pizza Co. menu but keep the name. Photo by Rammelkamp Foto Former Clifton Inn chef Yannick Fayolle and restaurant veteran Nikki Benedikt plan to revamp the Blue Ridge Pizza Co. menu but keep the name. Photo by Rammelkamp Foto

With its portable wood oven hitched to a pickup truck and fired-on-the-spot pizzas generously topped with local ingredients, Blue Ridge Pizza Co. has been dishing out personal-sized pies at Lockn’, the Heritage Harvest Festival and other social gatherings in town and around the county since spring 2013.

Yannick Fayolle, former Clifton Inn executive chef, and Nikki Benedikt, who’s worked in the restaurant industry for years, first as a server and later behind the bar and in management, have recently taken over the company.

Fayolle, a classically trained chef who went to school in Switzerland, owned a restaurant in his native Mauritius and cooked at a few eateries in Dubai before coming to the U.S. and cooking at Farmington Country Club and the Clifton Inn, where he served first as executive sous chef and in October 2015 rose to executive chef.

Fayolle left the Clifton Inn this past August, after he and Benedikt decided to pursue a private, in-home chef and catering business, Fayolle’s Table. Then, the Blue Ridge Pizza Co. opportunity “just fell into our laps, really,” Fayolle says, adding that taking ownership of the pizza company quickly facilitated the move and immediately gave Fayolle a working commercial kitchen for both businesses. The duo plans to keep the Blue Ridge Pizza Co. logo and the wood oven, but that’s about it.

They’ll change up the menu and the look of the truck and trailer. Fayolle says he’s having fun using the wood oven and learning the science of making dough. His pie-of-the-moment? The Fall Foliage, topped with wood-fire-roasted pumpkin, crispy kale, goat cheese and balsamic drizzle. “Very simple, but very fall,” he says.

Roast of the town

In 2012, after years of serving coffee—beginning from a City Market cart in 1993 and later at the flagship café on the Downtown Mall—Mudhouse Coffee founders Lynelle and John Lawrence decided to get into the coffee roasting game for themselves. They wanted to learn the craft and expand their company, so “it was an obvious next step for growth…and way too much fun,” Lynelle says. Their work has paid off: Mudhouse was recently named Micro Roaster of the Year for 2017 in Roast magazine’s 14th annual Roaster of the Year competition. According to Roast’s website, the awards are meant to “help inspire further excellence and success in the roasting industry.”

“This is the tippy top, the third Michelin star. This is the highest preeminent award for all coffee roasters in the U.S. and abroad,” Lynelle says. “We’re standing on the shoulders of giants, of course, and now we sit in the company of the top coffee roasters in the world. It is an incredible honor, and it belongs to the whole crew at Mudhouse.”

Good weird

Yearbook Taco will close its doors by the end of the year. “One gets the sense that the Yearbook Taco concept has almost run its course at this location,” says owner Hamooda Shami. “But rather than be dramatic and somber about it, we’re keeping things light and closing things out the right way…with tacos and booze,” Shami says. Every day from now until Yearbook closes, the restaurant is offering one of its top-shelf tequilas for half price until the bottle is empty. The space won’t be empty for long, though. Shami plans to introduce a new concept that “will be a better fit for the space and the neighborhood. Things are going to get weird (in a good way), and hopefully it’ll capture the imagination of the city.”

Contact Erin O’Hare at