Shift Drinks: Bill Leavy

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Along with Karl Deuben, Bill Leavy is the co-owner of Small Axe Truck in Portland, Maine. He is pictured here with a Sazerac made with Bulleit Rye.

Karl talked a bit about it, but how did you both settle upon the Sazerac? 

We both really love bourbon. We traveled to New Orleans right before Katrina and we had a great time down there. We have a good friend who is a chef there and he took us out of the Quarter and showed us spots off the beaten path. We checked out food and we checked out music. We had a great time and drank a few of these down there.

So talk a bit about the food truck thing. How are you enjoying it? 

When the weather is nice, it is great. When the weather is bad, it is terrible. We have been rained out a bunch of times, but when the sun shines, it is a lot of fun.

With respect to what is going on with food trucks in Portland, you got into this really early. It seems like that had to have required a pretty big leap of faith. 

Running a truck wasn't the first thing we were looking for. We were looking to do something else. Rob Evans [of Duckfat] does a lot of work with the Good Shephard Food Bank and they had a truck. They wanted to know if we wanted to rent it out for a season, but we weren't too interested in renting out someone else's truck. We were interested in that idea, though. We found a truck of our own and decided to go for it.

Karl wanted to be able to work during the day and see his family during the night, and it turned out he has worked out even more than we both thought he would. It backfired in that respect, but it was nice being one of the first trucks. It's nice being on the forefront of an industry.

Why was this an endeavor you were interested in working together on? 

We have worked together in 4 different places together and the commonalities between us are complementary. Karl is pretty laid back and I am definitely more impulsive. We just compliment each other well. I love working in the kitchen with him. It was a lot of fun.

You maintain a very particular menu and the truck has a very specific personality. How did you come to that?

I think we tried to toss around concepts and research. A lot of trucks tend to focus on one type of food, or food from one particular region. We are not known for any of that, but what we are known for our reputations working in various kitchens around town. We hoped people would expect us to do something different. We have used a lot of the connections we have made with farmers and other vendors over the years. It is very important to us that we use local and sustainable products in all capacities. We thought it would be a natural fit for us to do something out of the ordinary while using our range of experience.

I have worked in and around food forever. I love the community because I feel like it is great and easy to walk into and get along with everyone in it. Can you describe the industry community? 

It's a very tight knit community of like-minded people who don't fit in anywhere else. It's a band of thieves. [Laughs] We've all got each other's back.