There was something different at the pie baking competition at the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair — five of the eight first-place winners were male.
“I think it’s wonderful,” said judge Roxie Cauley, a retired home economics teacher, during the Oct. 5 competition.
“They need to know how to cook as much as anybody else. They need to be able to survive.”
Cauley judged cream pies in both the adult and junior divisions.
“They were very good, some very creamy entries, a lot of work went into them,” she said.
Cauley said there was one pie that was “absolutely beautiful with the meringues and twirls. I know they used a blowtorch to get it done. It was really pretty.”
One of her favorites was a banana split pie. There were two of them in this year’s competition.
Cauley said when judging, the first thing she does is look at appearance.
“You look at appearance and you can tell what they look like, but when you get down to flavor, that’s the thing,” she said. “You’re really judging each pie on its own merits and not against each other.”
Tasha Sneed judged the adult and junior nut pies.
“I thought they were outstanding, especially the juniors,” she said. “They did a fabulous job.”
Sneed said each one of the nut pies tasted a little bit different because of flavorings.
“Some had a little bit more of a buttery, velvety flavor,” she said. “Some seemed like they may have added a different flavor. One had a candied pecan taste on the top. Some of the pecans on top were roasted.”
But one in particular was more of what Sneed said had a traditional Southern pecan pie taste.
She, too, thought the male cooks did a fantastic job.
“When you’re watching Food Network and all the different baking shows and see all the male chefs on there, it’s inspiring to see our male students get involved,” Sneed said.
One of the juniors, 15-year-old Elijah Lee, won first place for both of his pies — a pineapple cream pie, a family recipe, and a butterscotch pie.
He’s been entering the pie baking competition since he was 5, and has won several times.
When his name was called, Lee said he couldn’t believe it. Then when it was called a second time, he really didn’t believe it.
“They called out Elijah Lee, and I was like, is that me, did they call my name?” he said.
There’s something special about baking, Lee said.
“It’s cool just to have a recipe and be able to put it together just starting with ingredients that you go and buy and put all together into a finished pie that tastes delicious,” he said.
“It’s amazing. That’s what I love about it.”
Lori Jones and her daughter, Colleen, both won first place in the adult division.
Lori said her family has been competing in the contest for years. This year, she competed with her mother, sister and daughter.
“I had to check with them to see what they were making because we don’t like to compete against each other,” she said.
Lori entered an apple pie with caramel and pecans on top. She was thrilled when her name was called as a winner.
“My mom and I have been baking together since I was a little girl,” she said. “I just love being in the kitchen. And this time of year is our big pie-making time. It’s a great family tradition, and we love it.”
Colleen, 20, entered a chocolate chess pie.
“I have actually been making this particular pie in the pie baking contest since I was 6,” she said. “It’s won numerous ribbons for 14 years now. This was my year to make it in the adult category.”
Colleen learned her baking skills from her mother and grandmother.
“We used to all get together at my grandma’s house and bake pies for the contest,” she said. “It makes me really excited to spend time with my family. And I love the way it makes the kitchen smell.”
Pie baking competition director Leigh Sanders has overseen the contest since 1982.
She said there were 59 entries this year.
“I think all the entries were great,” Sanders said. “This is a serious competition. I’ve had entrants who ask what kind of credentials the judges have.”
Sanders said the pie baking competition began at the fair in the 1970s. Her mother, Jackie Flowers, was the first director, but isn’t able to do it anymore.
“I know that being in the South, we have all these good homecooking women that started in the competition, and I think it’s good that they passed that tradition down to their families. We especially see that with our homeschoolers because they are already third-generation pie bakers.”