<strong>LUST FOR CRUST:</strong> Self-proclaimed pie enthusiasts Joya Rose Groves (left) and Leela Cyd throw a seasonal showdown this Sunday.
Paul Wellman

Pie bakers, start your crusts! On December 20, the first ever Spectacular Santa Barbara Pie Contest will go down at Sama Sama Kitchen, and entries are being accepted until December 18.

The delicious idea of Santa Barbara‒raised illustrator/stylist Joya Rose Groves and photographer/author Leela Cyd, Sunday’s contest — judged by Mayor Helene Schneider, among other pie aficionados — will feature both savory and sweet pies, which attendees will try as they sip on seasonal craft cocktails by bartender Spencer Cantrell and enjoy accompanying scoops of McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams.

Groves recently explained her pie love.

Why start a pie contest? Leela Cyd and I are pie enthusiasts, but we both missed the KCRW one in L.A. Leela won a Portland pie contest two years ago, and it was the best day of her life. We were like, “Let’s just have our own. There’s no reason not to.” It’s also a very cozy and very celebratory food.

What pies do you anticipate? Hopefully some unexpected taste combinations. You can put anything in pie crust, so it’s an unlimited blank canvas, from traditional, like mincemeat and apple pie, to all kinds of things in between.

When did you become a pie enthusiast? I was raised to be a pie enthusiast. My family calls the whole fall and winter “pie season.” My mom is a baker, and my sister is a pastry chef. We have a long tradition of family pie-crust recipes and lots of good memories of having a fire at home and having birthday pies and Christmas pies.

So cake wasn’t a big thing? We definitely had cake, but pies were the main affair. And now we have a lot of savory pies, as well. Chicken pot pie was the meal at my wedding last year.

In our cake-dominated culture, is pie on the rise? We all live in little bubbles, but in my little bubble, pie is making a comeback because it’s part of the homesteading movement. Pie represents a more wholesome scene than cake. For me at least, pie is associated with a fire in the hearth, with all of the festive handmade things. Cake has maybe more of a fun party reputation. The idea of pie made from scratch has a really sweet quality.

What’s your favorite pie? Right now, it’s probably pear and hazelnut pie. I’m a big fruit-pie person.


The Spectacular Santa Barbara Pie Contest starts at 3 p.m sharp on Sunday, December 20, at Sama Sama Kitchen (1208 State St.). The suggested donation to attend is $15, with proceeds going to Transition House. It’s also $15 to enter the contest, but you must register online at bit.ly/1NlwTND here by December 18.


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