4 Important Lessons I Learned While Working In a Pie Shop
Above all else, I developed a pie-hard appreciation for this cherished dessert category.
New York is a city where restaurants and bakeries can be dedicated solely to and thrive from serving a single item or dish. I worked at one such eatery called Daly Pie, located in family-friendly Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, while juggling school and internships. Owner Meghan Daly started making pies as a cheerful outlet from her day job, and after a few years of successfully selling out of her pies at farmers’ markets around town, she raised enough money through Kickstarter to move into a brick-and-mortar location—opening doors in 2016. It wasn’t long before toddler-towing moms, freelance writers, and neighborhood regulars packed the petite shop on a daily basis to enjoy pie by the slice and freshly brewed coffee. My time serving up pie is one I remember fondly, and value greatly for all that I learned; here are a few key lessons about pie that I took away.
Pitting cherries is no joke.
If you plan to make a cherry pie with fresh cherries you NEED to have a cherry pitter. All the Internet cherry pitting hacks are cute and probably work fine when you’re pitting like 5 cherries for a snack, but when you’re working your way through 2 pounds or more at a time, an actual pitter is the only way to survive (at least with any sanity in tact). At the shop, we made cherry pie for about a week straight and that was it. A week’s worth of large-scale cherry-pitting is enough to make anyone ready to abandon ship. Surprisingly, cherry pie was the most requested variety right behind blueberry and apple. Point being, people are really into their classic all-American pies. If someone goes through the labor of making you a cherry pie from-scratch, appreciate it; and know that if you do this for someone else, you will likely sprout wings and become their cherished pie angel.
Don’t f— up the pumpkin pie during Thanksgiving.
During the week of Thanksgiving, the pie shop was filled to the ceiling with boxed pies that customers ordered nearly a month in advance. The phone was ringing off the hook for last-minute dinner-goers hoping to snag an extra pie. All of the baked pies were accounted for; however, that did not stop people from rushing in the night before Thanksgiving looking for a pumpkin pie to bring to turkey day dinner. I happened to box up a pie that was a little less-than-perfect for one such customer, only to have her rushing back into the shop (after she took a glimpse of the pie at home) to demand a new and improved pie. Moral of the story is—don’t hand someone battling holiday stress a messed-up pumpkin pie the day before Thanksgiving; and on the flip side, be sure to order your pies (and any other baked holiday goods) well in advance or plan to attempt making them at home so that you’re not left in a bind. Our Pumpkin Spice Latte Pie with Coffee Liqueur Whipped Cream is simple to make and so worth a try.
WATCH: How to Make Twix Pie
Pie and wine are a seemingly unlikely, but excellent, pairing.
Given that the majority of pies we served were sweet, the shop’s wine selection consisted of mineraly, earthy flavored vinos to offset the sugary dessert. At 5 o’clock, the lights were dimmed and it was pie and wine hour. For the remainder of the evening, couples would roll in for an after-dinner piece of pie and wine. Seriously though, doesn’t that sound delightful? Life is short, shouldn’t we all be treating ourselves to pie + wine more often? The most popular wine choices among our pie-goers were glasses of dry rosé, Prosecco, and a red from the Rioja region of Spain.
Pie brings joy.
This was the second bakery that I’d worked in at that point, and I ultimately gathered the same conclusion as I had in my first bakery job in Atlanta, as a pastry assistant: Homemade bake goods (and chocolate) created with love bring people joy. I realize this sounds obvious, but it’s an incredibly pleasant, and pleasantly simple, fact of life observation to observe in real time. Customers come in with all smiles, wide-eyed and salivating over the decadent confectioner’s display. It’s an uncomplicated moment of pure childlike wonder and delight, which seems to be an increasingly rare thing to witness or experience organically. There are always going to be a handful of people that are too frustrated, angry, or “over it,” to enjoy, but for most, walking into a bakery and having the scent of something yeasty or buttery-sweet wrap warmly around them is enough to bring a new, cheerful light to their faces. And whether or not I’m working in a kitchen professionally, that most sincere exchange of joy—between a baker and a recipient— via a caringly-crafted treat is one thing I will grow never tired of replicating.
*In gathering information for this article, I discovered that the owner and founder of Daly Pie, Meghan Daly, has been diagnosed with breast cancer and is currently undergoing treatment. I learned many invaluable lessons from her and my experience working in her pie shop. Friends of Daly have started a GoFundMe page to support her in this part of her journey. If you share a love of pie and for the joy-spreaders who bake it, please feel free to support Daly here.