A Camel Wins The Kentucky Derby

The morning of the 6th Annual KCRW Pie Contest began like each of the previous years I entered did. I was deliriously tired, stressed out and the only expectations I had was to spend the day with four hundred or more similarly pie–obsessed people under the hot October sun. Again. And per previous years, I did not make a pie in a pie dish. I made a La Poulle au Pot Galette, or a Chicken Pot Pie Galette as it came to be called. (Like Tar Tar Pits . . . ) 

In my mind this contest was about being creative and thinking outside the box. I made this darned galette so many times over months, trying to improve it each time. For people that do not know how this contest works, contestants must bake two pies; one for the judges to taste and one for the public to enjoy. Neither of which then can a contestant taste on the day of the contest. Most unnerving. 

And so it was. I arrived with my pie and set it amongst the sea of stunning pies smiling up at me on row after row of tables in the grassy quad of the UCLA Fowler Museum grounds. Impossible not to take pictures of nearly every one of the beautiful, lovingly made creations. 


Eventually the judging comes to a close and the announcement is made to gather to hear the results. Evan Kleiman always starts it off and then a judge is announced to share who won in each of the seven categories of pie. My category is Savory this year. Third place is announced, then second and I am already thinking  . . . well, there is always next year. Then I hear something about chicken pot pie (mine was not the only one of course) and my name comes through the speakers and into the air. I am completely caught off guard and stumble forward in a daze. Is this real? While prepping the pies the night before The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was on TV which I had never seen. I wasn't really watching, wandering in and out of the story as I was working. I kept having to ask 'is this real or is he day dreaming again?' When I heard my name called, it felt exactly like that. I am handed this bag with a giant ribbon and lots of lots of things in it and people are congratulating me all around. Wow. This is fantastic! Back out amongst the bakers I go.

After the category winners have all been awarded, the finale with Jonathon Gold announcing the Best In Show gets underway. This is the BIG DEAL. Again, third place is announced, then second . . . I wish I could better remember hearing exactly what was being said but I was in a daze. SIr Gold launches into a philosophical discussion. What is a pie? Is a tart a pie? Is a quiche a pie? Is a pancake a pie? Why is he asking all this? It starts to dawn on me. . . oh no! Is he wondering whether a galette is a pie? . . . Then Jonathon says “So without further ado, the year that a galette won the pie contest, like a camel winning the Kentucky Derby, we award the Best in Show to the chicken pot pie galette by Allison Brooker.” Whaaaaat? No – really? Ohmygod. Dream stumble commences once more and a second bag of stuff with another ribbon is bequeathed upon me.

A galette wining the pie contest is like a camel winning the Kentucky Derby
— Jonathon Gold

I had no idea until I read the LA Times the next day what a heated controversy with the judges took place back stage. It was so surprising to me that in liberal, open minded Los Angeles that my galette would even possibly not be considered a pie. It has been made very clear since that a tart will NEVER win the pie contest. You can enter them sure. They can't make that statement about a galette again but I am never going to enter one again! Silly to shoot yourself in the foot. The KCRW Pie Contest is really more about being a part of the KCRW Pie Community then winning a ribbon but it does feel pretty great to take home a ribbon after pouring your heart into your pie for weeks on end : ))

From KCRW Good Food Blog: Congratulations To All the Winners of the 6th Annual Good Food Pie Contest!

From the LA Times: Existential questions aside, the winner of the KCRW Pie Contest was delicious

From LA EATER: All The Action From This Weekend's Good Food Pie Contest in Westwood. Hundreds of pies compete to win blue ribbons in nearly 100 degree heat. And a controversial pie (or is it a pie?) takes home first prize.

KCRW Good Food Facebook Page where you can see photos of every pie entered in the 2106 contest and before.