A Conversation with Teeny the Pie Baker
Name: Teeny Lamothe, pie baker extraordinaire and aspiring small business owner
Location: Washington, DC
Last month Apartment Therapy introduced you to 29-year-old pie baker Teeny Lamoth and her adorable apartment in Woodley Park. When we learned that Teeny went on a cross-country “pie tour” and apprenticed herself to pie shops along the way, we had to know more! Here Teeny shares her thoughts on starting a small food business, why it’s not the end of the world to throw out a batch of dough, and why pies are so much better than cupcakes.
“I grew up baking pie with my mom. It’s always been our family dessert,” says the Colorado native, who would occasionally bake for picnics and holidays. After graduating from Ithaca College and moving to Chicago, her passion was ignited as an adult when she began spending Sunday evening baking pies that she shared with friends.
She decided to turn her talent into a profession after she hit a career crossroads in 2011 while working as an actress and nanny. “I sort of fell in love with the idea of becoming an apprentice — learning from mentors, working with my hands, meeting a community of people who cared about the same things that I cared about,” she says. “I came up with this idea of touring to different pie shops across the United States and trying to find mentors.”
But she needed some help. After sending emails to multiple pie shops, she got her first response from High 5 Pie in Seattle. On September 10 of the same year, she flew out and began a year-long journey that took her from the West Coast, through the South, to the East and back. She created an IndieGogo campaign page to find supporters, and chronicled her journey on Tumblr. Now settled with her boyfriend in Washington D.C., Teeny has just completed her first cookbook, and is in the process of launching her own pie business.
Quick Questions for Teeny Lamothe
1. What’s the hardest part about pie baking?
When one makes a pie, deciding on a filling can be easy, but the crust can be intimidating, to say the least. I think people are inherently terrified of [making crust]. [My mom] never freaked out about the crust, and if it ever tore or ripped, she’d just throw it away and start over. I think that’s one of the most valuable things that she ever taught me: there’s a time to throw it away. If you are so angry that the thought of making a pie is infuriating rather than inspiring, just throw that batch of dough away and start again. It just takes a lot of practice. But you have to start somewhere, right? You have to start with a good recipe and just go for it.
2. Aside from learning how to bake pies for the masses and run a business, what other goals did you set for yourself?
I knew that I wanted to find and work with lady bakers specifically — women who were strong and had the wherewithal to open a pie shop, open and operate their own business. I think that the industry is very male heavy and it’s really refreshing to be in these women’s places of business. People were very open and ready to be part of the adventure. There was very little ego involved, which was so refreshing.
3. Can a pie be done quickly, or should you really take your time if you are going to execute making something as delicate as a pie?
Well, what’s nice about the summertime is that with fruit happening then, it’s much quicker [to make a pie]. Spring and summer pies give us a break in the kitchen, so rather than taking an hour to bake at a very high temperature, you can get away with baking a pie for 45-55 minutes [at a] lower temperature. It’s like a little treat, a break from the super-intense warm kitchens. You can make your pie in an hour and then you can go play outside.
4. You now reside in Washington, a city that is heavy on the cupcake franchises. What do you think about adding pie to the mix?
I think there’s a very strong movement towards people paying attention to what they’re eating, finally. And along with that is pie. Pie is rich and hearty, it’s full of things. Cupcakes are just sugar and flour and butter and some sort of flavoring; but pie is chunks of fruit and spices. It’s time for a change!
5. What is the biggest thing you learned about yourself while on this journey?
First of all, I own a lot more than I actually need, because clearly you can get by on a single suitcase. But I think one of the things that I realized is that I am a pretty big scaredy cat. I’m pretty scared of a lot of big things, but all of that anxiety is well worth it because of all the wonderful things that come along with facing fears and taking that step forward regardless. You have no idea what doors are gonna open if you allow change to happen and embrace something that you love fiercely. I think you have to step forward in order to see what will happen next.
(Words: Erin Williams; Images: Nicole Crowder)