Monday, December 2, 2013

Sweet Potato Pie Forever.

On Sunday, December 1st, I was allowed to once again be a judge in a epic battle of pie-making... the 2nd annual Say It Ain't Say's Sweet Potato Pie Contest at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center Holiday Open House. And what an open house it was.

When I arrived, set-up was still underway. I love walking into the auditorium on the third floor of this building. It's been beautifully recreated. See, the original structure burned several years ago, but five years ago the reconstruction was complete, and today the facility hosts a museum with changing exhibits, a bookstore, meeting and learning spaces and this magnificent auditorium with balcony seating.

The prizes were on display -- a collection that included aprons and these fine boxed pie sets with the date and event inscribed on a plaque.

Many of the competitors already had their pies out and were working to set up for the public tasting.  A selection of those pies:

Mitchell Family Sweet Potato Pie by Debrah Mitchell.

Mary Emma's Sweet Potato Pie by Mavis Jones.

Roasted Sweet Potato Pie by Charlotte Marks.

Sweet Potato Pie Cupcakes by Michelle Smith.

Sweet Potato Pie Cheesecake by Sondra Strong.

My Mom's Sweet Potato Pie by Marion McGee.

Jamaican Spiced Rum Sweet Potato Pie by Cathi Compton.

Joyce Johnson's Coconut Sweet Potato Pie -- not entered in competition.

Madear's Sweet Potato Pie by Joyce Johnson.

Mama's Homemade Pie by Mama's Homemade Pie Shop.

Sweet Potato Pie with Candied Pecan Crunch by Maddie's Place.

Sinfully Sweet Sweet Potato Pie by Sweet Love (Kelli Marks).

Pecan Shortbread and Sweet Potato Pie by Latrice Catering and Design.
Woo Pie Sooie by Kamiya Merrick.

The judging table.

So, a pie contest.  What's up with this?  Last year when coming up with ideas for a celebration for the holidays, the folks at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center decided a fantastic way to celebrate was to add a little pie.  What makes it sweeter is WHO they decided to honor -- Robert "Say" McIntosh -- the political figure, community activist and amazing pie maker whose sweet potato pies are of legend here in Little Rock.

The contest has a popular choice winner -- and the panel of judges chooses a first and second place in both amateur and professional categories.  It's hard work!

For the crowd - the best way to try them all is with just a bite.  With more than a dozen different pies out there, you have to pace yourself.  This is a good idea for judges, too.  This year, the competitors had their A game on from the get-go, carving out pies into spoon-sized bites easy to pick up and share.

Joyce Johnson's spoonfuls.

Cathi Compton served up her Jamaican Spiced Rum Sweet Potato Pie bites
on chocolate dipped spoons.
Debrah Mitchell utilized crust cutouts to make sure everyone got a taste
of her handmade crust with their bite of pie.

Whole pies were delivered to the judges table, where a
panel of five would deliberate and choose a winner.  The
2013 judges included Donna Terrell of FOX 16, food
enthusiast Pamela Smith, Power 92's Broadway Joe and
the legendary Robert "Say" McIntosh.  And myself.

Another look at some of the pies:  Mama's Homemade Sweet Potato Pie.

Cathi Compton's Jamaican Spiced Rum Sweet Potato Pie.

The Sinfully Sweet Sweet Potato Pie from Sweet Love.

The Sweet Potato Pie with Candied Pecan Crunch from Maddie's Place.
Pecan Shortbread Sweet Potato Pie from Latrice Catering and Design.

Kamiya Merrick's Woo Pie Sooie (shown upside down -- see, it's a

Mary Emma's Sweet Potato Pie from Mavis Jones.
Michelle Smith's Sweet Potato Pie Cupcakes.

Mitchell Family Sweet Potato Pie.

Sondra Strong's Sweet Potato Pie Cheesecake.

My Mom's Sweet Potato Pie by Marion McGee.

Madear's Sweet Potato Pie by Joyce Johnson.
Roasted Sweet Potato Pie by Charlotte Marks.
A packed house for this event!
This certainly wasn't an easy competition to judge -- with so many worthy pies.  But the crowd was friendly, the pies were all marvelous, and we were treated to the likes of the Central High Madrigals...

The Central High Madrigals on stage.
And the Gloryland Pastor's Choir.
The Gloryland Pastor's Choir.
In fact, get yourself in the holiday mood and watch this video of the Gloryland Pastor's Choir.  They were phenomenal!

After all the votes were tabulated, the winners were announced.  Sondra
Strong won the people's choice award for her Sweet Potato Pie Cheesecake.

Kamiya Merrick took second place in the amateur division for her
Woo Pie Sooie.

Michelle Smith won first place honors in the amateur
division with her Sweet Potato Pie Cupcakes.

The second place prize for best professional pie went to Latrice Catering
and Design for the Pecan Shortbread Sweet Potato Pie.

And the winner of the professional division?
Kelli Marks for her Sinfully Sweet Sweet Potato
Pie by Sweet Love.

Each of the bakers donated a toy for the Stop The
Violence Campaign, which were accepted by
Robert "Say" McIntosh.

He wrapped up the event succinctly, sharing how
great the day was and thanking everyone for coming.
You're planning to come out next year, right?
For more information on the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, please check out this website.

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