Hundreds of foodies scraped sugar-soaked pie crumbs from paper plates Wilson Plaza Sunday for the seventh annual Good Food Pie Contest. Angelenos congregated on the lawn, where a labyrinth of tables displayed freshly baked pies, ranging from sweetie pie vegan apple to lemon custard pie with ginger snap crust. The line of people extended from the Student Activities Center and wrapped around towards the Anderson School of Management; after waiting, attendees received tickets to try two slices of pie. First-year Design | Media Arts student Yuri Sakakibara happened to walk by the event and tried slices of chicken potpie and chocolate pecan, favoring the savory more. Two cousins, Carrie Bell-Hoerth and Milla Bell-Hart, each baked a berry pie for the event, though another contestant’s venison pie stood out to them. “We thought you had to bake a pie in order to try them,” said Bell-Hoerth. “There are more pies than I ever imagined possible.”
NANAYAKKARA: Seven years ago, Evan Kleiman decided to bake a pie every single day.
KLEIMAN: One year I just set myself a goal during the summer of baking a pie every day, and to make sure I did that, I blogged about it.
NANAYAKKARA: Evan Kleiman is an alumna of UCLA (’75, MBA ’80). She’s also the host of “Good Food,” a radio program offering “a taste of life, culture and the human species,” on KCRW. Her blog picked up popularity as people began sharing images of pies on social media. Several pies later, the pie contest was born. This year, the contest drew over 300 pie entries, and was hosted by UCLA’s Fowler Museum. There was warm weather, pie-themed music, and plenty of pie to go around.
KLEIMAN: So this is the seventh annual pie contest. … We realized that we could turn this virtual community that we had created into an actual community.
NANAYAKKARA: Kleiman says they always include a pie category that has a flavor of the venue.
KLEIMAN: Every year, we have all these different categories, and some of them are categories that you would expect in a pie contest – fruit, nut, cream, cooked custard, vegan. But then we always like to have a category that’s a salute to the venue that’s hosting us. So, because the Fowler is a museum that looks at artifacts of world culture, we’re doing world pie.
NANAYAKKARA: Jennifer Newfield is a UCLA alumna (’07) and pie contestant. She entered a “world pie.”
NEWFIELD: The first of which is a southwestern mole tamale pie. It has a cornbread crust, and it’s inspired by the Fowler Museum has an exhibit about southwestern textiles going on right now. And so I took one of the textiles and I decorated the pie with all of the ingredients that are inside and used those to make a textile pattern.
NANAYAKKARA: Newfield also thinks there’s a certain flavor to baking that can’t be found in cooking.
NEWFIELD: I like the sharing aspect of basking. Cooking is wonderful, but cooking has more of a shelf life. Baking more you can package it and bring it places and share with other people.
NANAYAKKARA: Travis Nelson is a second-year linguistics and communications student. For him, the smell of pies is a slice of home.
NELSON: I’m from Maryland, where it’s actually cool and the weather changes, and you can smell pumpkin pies and apple pies, the whole harvest kind of thing.
NANAYAKKARA: For second-year biology student Delaney Smith, pie gives her a taste of being with family.
SMITH: Most of the time when I eat pie, it’s at big family reunions, so I guess it reminds me of that. And it makes me think of Thanksgiving and pumpkin pie.
NANAYAKKARA: Pie contest contestant Elaina Leibee stood over her Moroccan inspired pie as she reflected on what pie means to her and her family.
LEIBEE: The pie tradition has been in my family for a long time. I was super close with my grandparents, and my grandmother actually taught me how to bake pie. My grandfather loved pie from the time he was really young, and when he met my grandmother, and found out that she could make pie, he said that’s when he knew that she was the one.
NANAYAKKARA: But how do the judges know which pie is “the one”? According to judge Roxana Jullapat …
JULLAPAT: The first and foremost, most important detail, for sure, is the crust. And, we see all kinds of crusts.
NANAYAKKARA: Judge Sherry Yard also places importance on the crust.
YARD: I want the crust to be uber flaky. I want the center to be unctuous, and have the perfect fruit.
NANAYAKKARA: Between bites of pie on a Sunday afternoon, guests enjoyed more than just pie. For host Evan Kleiman, it’s not all about the food.
KLEIMAN: And to have a day like today, where we had just a tiny bit of rain, beautiful sun, not to hot, kids playing with hula hoops, people sitting on blankets waiting to have that free piece of pie. I mean, it’s what community’s all about, really.
NANAYAKKARA: People came in search of pie, and found it, as well as with fellow pie lovers. For Daily Bruin Radio, I’m Priyanka Nanayakkara.