Local bakers are on the rise.
Published: July 3, 2013
What is it with the explosion of area bakeries over the last several years? There are several things driving it: An increasing interest in food culture, suspicions of “Big Food,” dietary restrictions, the eat-local movement and an appreciation for the flavor of something “made with love.” For our Made in Michigan issue, we decided to hunt down a few of these Detroit-area bakers and ask them why they do what they do. The answers were enlightening.
In these tough times, it’s some comfort to hear that somebody opened a business in metro Detroit — by choice.
That person would be Lisa Ludwinski and her business, Sister Pie. Michigan-born Ludwinksi, 29, lived in Brooklyn, N.Y., for six years, working at Momofuku, a chain of Asian-inspired restaurants owned by David Chang. Ludwinski won a scholarship to go back to Michigan and work at Avalon in Detroit and Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor.
“What I didn’t realize,” she says, “is that I would fall in love with Detroit and want to move back. I saw an opportunity to open a business, and also felt that connection to home, and pride for Michigan and hope for Detroit.” She spent last summer planning her move, and returned in September.
Timing the launch was important, she says, since demand for pies is highest around the holidays. Under Michigan’s cottage food law, home bakers can sell their wares, so long as they have contact with the individual customers. And that’s why she started baking out of her parents’ Milford kitchen last fall — and she’s been going ever since.
“I operate under the cottage food law, so I can cook out of home kitchen without inspection. I’ve gone from using my parents’ kitchen, and now I’m in Ferndale using the kitchen where I’m subletting,” she says over a crackling cell phone. “I’m actually about to have a meeting in Detroit to finally rent some commercial kitchen space, which will catapult me out of the cottage-food-law category, which I’m looking forward to.”
She continues, “The cottage food law is a great way for any entrepreneur to start a business. I’ve been trying to start it as leanly as possible, but I’ve also been looking to open a breakfast and lunch place with pies as part of it.”
Given her experiences at Zingerman’s and Avalon, she emphasizes the importance of local ingredients and good labor practices.
“At Avalon,” she says, “I was staring up at this poster at the Willis Street location that said ‘Earth, Community, Employees,’ and thought, ‘That’s what I want to do: move back here and do that.’”
This June, Ludwinski’s pie menu included three pies — two sweet, one savory: a blueberry-rhubarb biscuit, strawberry-apricot basil, and a black bean and green chile.
If those sweet pies sound like artisanal jams, it’s no coincidence. “I do often think of jams when I make them,” Ludwinski says. “They’re very much related. In fact, I’m working on developing stuff for July that involves Michigan sour cherries. I’m also working on a sweet pie made with sweet corn.”
It sounds maybe too experimental for some people, but Ludwinski is confident that people are up to the challenge of new combinations.
“Pie is having a moment,” she says, “But food is having a decade. It’s the perfect time to be starting a food business, because people are so excited to try new things.” —Michael Jackman
For more information, see sisterpie.com/contact or Sister Pie’s Facebook page. You can sample Sister Pie’s seasonally-inspired pie, cookies, and breads between noon and 8 p.m. July 5-6 at the June on Jefferson Pop-Up, 14436 E. Jefferson Ave., Detroit.
Pies That Rock
Dangerously Delicious Pies
An idea for a baking business doesn’t necessarily have to be made from scratch. Take, for example, Detroit’s Dangerously Delicious Pies. Headed up by co-owner Don “Doop” Duprie (yes, the guitarist and singer of Doop & the Inside Outlaws fame), the endeavor is actually a spin-off.
Dupries says, “I met my buddy from Baltimore, Rodney Henry, at South by Southwest. He’s another musician who’s got some pie shops out in Baltimore and D.C. We pretty much became quick friends, and he wanted to come hang out in Detroit. So he hung out for a month and he’s like. ‘Man, we should start a pie shop here!’ At the time, I had lost my job as a fireman due to layoffs and shit. So he’s like, ‘You wanna do it?’ And I’m like, ‘Hell yeah!’”
Duprie started slinging his pies out of the kitchen at Comet Bar on Henry Street in Detroit’s Cass Corridor, but about four months ago he started working out of the Third Street Bar in Midtown, where he sells pie by the slice.
“We have a little table set up,” Duprie says, “and people come up and we take care of them.” Dangerously Delicious serves about 30 varieties of pies. On any given day, diners can choose from about six or seven savory pies and about six or seven sweet pies, and $6 gets them a slice, along with a field greens salad with homemade vinaigrette dressing.
Although Duprie uses some of Henry’s recipes, he says he’s come up with some new twists, such as “coney pie.” We wanted to do something regional and, like, what’s more Detroit than a coney dog? It’s called “the Strangler, and it has our own chili made from scratch, with mustard, onions, aged white cheddar, Dearborn skinless beef franks, some other little secret ingredients. It’s basically everything you get in a coney.” —Michael Jackman
Dangerously Delicious Pies Detroit operates out of Third Street Bar, 4626 Third St., Detroit; 313-727-7437; dangerouspiesdetroit.com.
Made with Love
Love’s Custard Pie
Sometimes, you have one product that takes off, and then you put all your energy into it. Allen Love says that’s how his wife founded Love’s Custard Pie.
“We had a custard ice cream shop, a Dairy Queen, and it wasn’t going as well. But we always did pies — we know how to do custard very well — and people wanted us to make more and more of them. So we went down to Eastern Market with them and there we are today.”
> Email Metro Times Staff