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Q & A with First Prize Pies' Allison Kave

Allison Kave.jpg

How many people enter a pie contest and win first prize on their
first try?  Not many, but cooking runs in Allison Kave’s family.   Her mother owns Roni Sue’s Chocolate and her brother is the executive chef at the new Brooklyn bbq joint, Fatty ‘Cue.   Allison’s bourbon pecan pie took top first prize at the Annual Brooklyn Pie Bake-off.    That’s just a glimpse of the delightfully imaginative pies she creates, including Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Pie and Shoo-fly pie.   Most of her thin-crusted creations were inspired by childhood sweets, like root beer floats &  S’mores.  She’s just as talented with seasonal classics, like a light & flaky, rhubarb & frangipane tart and ingenious savories like a Thanksgiving Leftover Pot Pie with turkey, gravy & stuffing.

in a relationship, but not married.

What was your first job in food and
what did you learn? 
first job in food was at a Baskin Robbins, at the age of 14.  I loathed it – I made about $4 per
hour, and dealt with lines of cranky customers all day. How can people be so
grumpy when they’re about to eat ice cream? But it did teach me how to grin and
bear it – an essential component of customer service.

What did you cook with your
mother Rhonda Kave, owner of Roni-Sue’s Chocolates, while growing up? 
learned so much about food and cooking from my mother.  I have strong memories of rolling
truffles with her around the holiday (she gave them away as holiday gifts every
year).  We also took a lot of
cooking classes together – one of the most memorable for me was a pie workshop
with Carole Walter, an absolute guru of pastry.  I learned so much from that experience.

Your brother Corwin is also a chef,
so what culinary advice has he given you?  
gave me some great practical advice when I first expressed an interest in
transitioning into the food business. 
At this stage in my life, he said it just wouldn’t make sense to go to
culinary school, accrue (more) education debt, and work low-paying line cook
jobs.  He advised me to find my own
niche, which I eventually did. Above all, I’m inspired by his creative approach
to ingredients, the artful way he combines flavors and textures.  He’s an incredible chef.

Baking was primarily a hobby for you
up until last year. What made you want to turn it into a career by starting
First Prize Pies? 
been thinking about shifting careers for awhile, but wasn’t quite sure
how.  My boyfriend encouraged me to
enter the First Annual Brooklyn Pie Bake-Off last fall, and when my Bourbon
Ginger Pecan pie took the top prize, I started to think this might be the right
direction for me.  I started small,
but it too off so quickly, and has now become my main focus and passion.

Where did you work before you
started First Prize Pies? 
got my masters in contemporary art in London at Sotheby’s Institute of Art.
After that, I worked at galleries in New York, including Harris Lieberman and
Bellwether Gallery, where I was the director.  I was laid off from that job
after the recession hit and was unemployed for six months.  During that period,
I realized that it was time for a career change, and that food was my real
passion. I now work as the studio manager for an artist, but I’m in the process
of transitioning out of that job to focus on my new business.

You’ve come up with some wild pie
concoctions, such as Root Beer Cream and Peanut Butter Pretzel. But have there
been any failed pie recipe ideas? 
Root Beer Cream was almost a fail! I had to test so many versions before
becoming completely happy with it. It originally had a custard filling, but I
couldn’t get the right consistency and intensity of root beer flavor. I then
decided to approach the root beer filling as I would a pecan pie filling, and
hit on the right solution.

What’s your favorite type of pie
that you make? 
favorite pie to make is the S’mores pie because I get to use a blowtorch to
toast the marshmallow fluff. Right now (it’s always changing), my favorite pie
to eat is the Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Pie because I love the salty and
sweet combination.

What ingredients are essential to
making great pies? 
good butter is essential.  I use Plugra – European-style butter. It’s higher in
butterfat with less water than most butter from the States, which means the
crust doesn’t shrink as much, and winds up flakier and tastier.

You currently serve a rhubarb pie.
Do you plan on incorporating more seasonal ingredients into your pies? 
I plan to do fruit pies all summer, using whatever’s fresh at the market. I
can’t wait to start using cherries, stone fruits and whatever else is in
season. I really want to make a blueberry-nectarine pie.

You make a point of stating that you
use apples from New York farms. Do you use any other locally sourced ingredients
in your pies and how important is the locavore philosophy to you? 
my fruits are local. My latest batches of rhubarb and strawberries come from a
farm out in Long Island – straight from the farmer. Even the apple cider I use
in the Apple Cider Cream Pie is from upstate New York.

you eat pie anywhere else in New York City? If so, where and where would you
like to try? 
I’m sorry to say that I’ve
been too busy to check out my peers’ pies, but I’ve been really wanting to
visit Four and Twenty Blackbirds. 
Fortunately, I’ll be participating in the BK Farmyards “Pie Lovers
Unite!” benefit at Jimmy’s No 43 this Saturday, June 12th, where
they will be competing along with some other great bakers, so I’ll be able to
try them all in one place!

you have any plans to start selling other types of baked goods? 
The next step for me will be
savory pies. A lot of people have been asking for them, so I’ll be working on
that eventually.  I know that I’ll make a Thanksgiving Leftovers pot pie
(year-round,) inspired by one I made last year. I used the leftover
Thanksgiving turkey, gravy, and green bean casserole (made from scratch with
cream of mushroom gravy and fried onions), and sandwiched them in a nice crust.
It was the best pot pie I’ve ever had.

are your goals for First Prize Pies? For instance, would you like to open up
your own shop? 
Eventually I would like to
have a space where I can combine production and sales. I’d love to be in one
place all day, baking, interacting with customers, and sending out wholesale
orders. That’s my next big goal, and I hope it’s not too far off!

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