SCOUTING AROUND: Pie Guy's long journey winds its way here
Pie is often a food found at gatherings, and, for Allan Edwards, pies are what gave him a sense of belonging here.
When he first moved to Murphy for his retirement, he’d make pies and give the beautifully crafted desserts as gifts to new friends. He was often told he should make a business out of his skills. Three years ago, he started selling his pies at the farmers market as The Pie Guy.
“There was a sense of community among those folks,” he said.
Identity and belonging was always something he struggled with growing up. He was placed for adoption moments after birth. While didn’t feel he fit in with his adoptive family, his fondest memories were spent cooking with his adoptive mother. She was a fantastic cook, he said, even though everything was rationed out in post-war England.
“You had to make everything work,” he said. “That was sort of ingrained in me as a child.”
That thought can be found in his pies today. For example, the high costs of pecans caused him to start making an oatmeal chocolate pie that tastes just like pecan pie. His recipes aren’t ones passed down for generations, but ones he found more recently on the internet.
He also makes 6-inch pies in addition to the traditional 9- or 10-inch pies to accommodate those who may want a personal pie or only have one other person to share with. The smaller pies are also more cost effective, and allow him to bake more at once.
He gets as many ingredients as he can locally. He buys eggs from a neighbor, Bobby Ledford, and apples from the Talking Rock Farms produce stand on U.S. 64 where customers can now find his creations.
He wasn’t always a Pie Guy. He briefly owned a vegetarian restaurant in Salt Lake City called The Morning Star, and for many years prepared meals for the rich and famous as a house manager and personal cook.
“My specialty of late is baking,” he said. “I think of myself really as a country cook. I’m not British in that sense any more.”
He moved to America in his early 20s for better economic opportunities, and after about a year, was drafted for Vietnam, even though he wasn’t an American citizen yet. After training in California, he served as an instructor at Fort Monmouth, N.J.
“Being in the service gave me a quick education,” he said. “It was a good experience for me. It made me grow up real quick.”
After the service, he went to Salt Lake City because he loved the mountains.
“To me, America was the west,” he said. “After spending time in New Jersey, I wanted to go to the mountains.”
After three years in the restaurant business, he was offered a job for Sheraton hotels. His job was to be a secret shopper of sorts, critiquing all aspects of an individual corporate hotel, and then, after turning in his report and revealing who he was, becoming part of the location’s management team. He would work with the individual hotel for six months to a year before moving on to the next location in need of improvement.
He decided he could take his talents to a personal level after about 15 years with Sheraton. He moved to Dallas, and put an ad “looking for a position in the private sector” in the Dallas Morning News. He got a response from people who had big homes and needed someone to manage their properties. He decided to work for a young man who was not looking for something formal.
“One time, I got to meet the Queen of England because of him,” he said.
She was having an official dinner with dignitaries at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, and his boss was invited. Edwards got to be his guest after his boss’ girlfriend didn’t want to go. In the reception line, he was introduced to the queen as “a fellow countryman.”
“For a moment, her eyes lit up,” he said. “She says, ‘Oh, and what do you do?’”
After he responded, “I’m a butler, ma’am,” that light in her eyes dimmed as she said, “Oh.”
“That’s when being British got me in trouble,” he said.
Over the years, he ended up managing the houses and preparing meals for several wealthy families, including the Trumps. Alex Rodriguez, as the guest of one his bosses, requested seconds of Edwards’ quiche, which the baseball star called “pizza pie stuff.”
While he is certainly good at what he does, he was self-taught and does not want to be called a chef.
“To me, a chef is someone who is formally trained... and earned the right to wear the hat,” he said. “I can’t take that title. It’s not fair.”
He moved to Murphy on a whim. He always thought he’d retire to Colorado, but while traveling through the Appalachian Mountains on a trip to Washington to visit his granddaughter, he thought the area reminded him of Colorado. He rented a cabin for a week that fall, then bought the house he lives in now.
About 18 months ago, he took a break from baking for the farmers market due to surgery. When the produce stand opened near his house over the summer, he made an agreement with Lee Jenkins, the owner, to sell his pies and quiches there. While there’s less of a time commitment with his new arrangement, he still feels a great sense of community.
In fact, he is willing to teach his skills, one on one. But, he said making a crust from scratch is really something for someone who is making pies all the time because practice is needed to get the technique right. He said people who are only making pies at the holidays should stick with frozen pre-made crusts.
He is continuing to take orders for pies, and makes holiday pies through special order only. Holiday pies must be ordered no later than three days before the holiday, but earlier is better for planning purposes.
To learn more about his pies, call Edwards at 214-828-2899, or find him on Facebook at ThePieGuy.
Andrews starts Christmas season
Santa Claus is coming to Andrews this weekend for the third annual Christmas on Main Street.
The kick off to the holiday season features shopping at local businesses and vendors, entertainment, and activities for kids from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday. The event is a joint production of the Town of Andrews and the Andrews Chamber of Commerce.
Shopping begins at 9 a.m. with the Fall Vendor Fair sponsored by the Konnaheeta Woman’s Club. The fair can be found in the Andrews Community Center at 160 Park St. until 2 p.m.
The big guy will be available for photos at Appalachian Memories from 3-7 p.m. But he isn’t the only highlight – the tree will be lit at 6 p.m., and the event will conclude with Valleytown Cultural Arts Center’s production of “The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree” at 7 p.m.
For deatils, call 321-3584 or 321-2111, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Samantha Sinclair is the Scouting Around columnist for the Cherokee Scout. You can reach her by email, email@example.com; fax, 837-5832; or by leaving a message at 837-5122.