American Pie Council

Top Winners Leave Judges Pie-Eyed at 2017 Annual APC National Pie Championships

ORLANDO (May 18, 2017) -- Last week ushered in a new culinary era as the American Pie Council (APC) announced its 2017 top pie makers with landmark excitement. For the first time ever in the APC National Pie Championship’s 23-year history, both the Amateur and Professional Divisions’ Best in Show winners were men. Christopher Taylor, from Atlanta, took home the blue ribbon in the Amateur Division for his Checkerboard Peanut Butter Pie and Andy Hilton, from Davenport, Fla., topped the Professional Division with his Dreamy Lemon Pie. Although the dual male-marked wins are a first for the annual baking championship, the men are no strangers to competition.

Amateur Division winner, Christopher Taylor, and his partner, Paul, who are both medical doctors in Atlanta, have been competing in baking competitions for the past five years; and when it comes to pies, they mean business. Not wanting to compete against each other, Paul competes in the fruits and berries categories and Christopher creates for the chocolate and cream categories.

“We actually have a spreadsheet in the kitchen to schedule our baking times!” said Taylor.

Taylor’s first taste of victory was six years ago in a local pie contest. He and Paul learned about the National Pie Championships through another contestant’s social media post and decided to enter themselves.

“We thought, ‘What the heck? Why not try this one, too?’” said Taylor.

The duo’s first attempt at the competition, however, proved fruitless. Learning from the other competitors, they realized that aesthetics were as important to the judging as the taste of the pie and committed to honing their craft. They self-taught decorating techniques by watching online videos and Taylor would test his recipes weekly at work in what his co-workers dubbed “Pie Tuesdays.” With his improved display skills and experimentation with flavors, Taylor took home the win.

Professional baker Andy Hilton has competed in the APC National Pie Championships for 12 years. He’s racked up approximately 20 APC ribbons, including five second-place finishes in one year. He’s competed in the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars,” won two major baking competitions and several Best in Show awards from Florida State Fair competitions, yet the APC National Pie Championships honor had still eluded him – until this year.

“I hadn’t gotten the brass ring yet, but now I have it. It’s not a bragging thing, it was a personal quest. I am, for this moment, an expert in pie,” said Hilton, who fondly referred to his win as his “Academy Award”.

Hilton entered six different pies this year. The Best of Show pie, Dreamy Lemon Pie, entered in the Comstock category, was particularly special to him because the simple recipe is one that others could quickly and easily make with the readily-available canned filling, giving them more time to enjoy time with their families.

“That’s what it’s all about,” said Hilton. “Pie is like family. It has an appeal like no other pastry. Picnics – pie. Thanksgiving – pie. America is baseball and apple pie. People will look over the other pastries and seek out something very friendly to them – and that’s pie.”

Hilton, now a baker at Publix, got into the industry after leaving his family’s cloth diaper business about 11 years ago. The move to Florida made him miss his mother’s pies and he began baking as a hobby before realizing he wanted to do it for a living. He applies his engineering-focused views from his previous career to this one.

“There’s a science to it. There has to be the right filling-to-crust ratio so there’s not an imbalance,” said Hilton. “For instance, in key lime pie, you’ve got a creamy filling, but too much crust can throw the entire taste out of whack.”

Hilton’s win broke a three-year winning streak previously held by professional Evette Rahman, owner of Sugar Honey’s bakery in Orlando, Fla. With his $5,000 prize money, he plans to take his wife on a big trip next year to celebrate their 30th anniversary. Most importantly, though, he said he wants to continue to spread his love of pies.

“You give away a little bit of yourself in every pie you make.”

Additional winners included Naylet La Rochelle, from Miami, who took home top honors in the Best in Comstock flavor category in the Amateur Division for her Cherry Tiramisu Pie using Duncan Hines Comstock Cherry Pie filling.

The 23rd APC National Pie Championships was held May 4-6 at at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando. Since 1995, amateur pie makers, professionals and commercial pie manufacturers from throughout the country and Canada, have been competing for the coveted titles and cash prizes. Entries are judged based on appearance, taste, consistency, crust, and the overall product. This year, a total of 789 pies were entered across three divisions: 22 commercial bakeries entered 470 pies; 16 professional bakers entered 113 pies and 35 amateur contestants entered 206 pies.

The Amateur Division is comprised of 14 flavor categories: apple, blueberry, cherry, chocolate, citrus, cream, cream cheese, fruit/berry, nut, peanut butter, pumpkin, open, “better for you” and hand-created artisan. The Professional Division has 12 flavor categories: apple, blueberry, chocolate, nut, fruit/berry, cherry, hand-crafted artisan, citrus, cream, peanut butter, pumpkin and open.

The American Pie Council is the only organization committed to maintaining America’s pie heritage. It continues to pie-oneer America’s love of the famed dessert, passing on the tradition of pie making from generation to generation. The APC offers personal, professional and commercial memberships. For more information and a complete listing of the 2017 APC National Pie Championship winners, visit www.piecouncil.org.

To bring Christopher Taylor’s Best in Show-winning Checkerboard Peanut Butter Pie to your own “Pie Tuesday” or to recreate Andy Hilton’s Best in Show-winning Dreamy Lemon Pie for your own family celebration, or any of the other award-winning entries, check out the recipes at http://www.piecouncil.org/2017APCChampionshipWinners

For more information:
Mary Deatrick, DPR
mary@deatrickpr.com, 407-718-4640