Forks up, Phoenix! Chow Bella and Roosevelt Row present the seventh annual Pie Social at 2 p.m. on Saturday, November 19, at the Bioscience High School at 512 East Pierce Street. We've got an all-star lineup of bakers making pies for you to taste, and from now till Pie Social, we'll introduce them to you, one by one.
Casey Hopkins of Welcome Diner
Casey Hopkins has the distinct privilege of being the head of the baking program for Welcome Chicken + Donuts, Welcome Diner, and Welcome Diner Tucson. These restaurants make a variety of scratch doughnuts fresh every day, along with an assortment of pies at Welcome Diner Tucson. We're told that some pies and desserts are in the research and development phase and on the way to Phoenix. Hopkins tells us that her job allows her to be creative, hone her craft, create with some of the state's finest produce and ingredients, and work alongside an inspiring team. She says needless to say, she's a lucky woman.
What is the first dish you remember fixing yourself at home?
The dish that stands out in my mind growing up is pasta. Pasta anything, and all the ways. I would occasionally help my mom chop vegetables or throw the pasta on, or help sauté the meat for bolognese ... it was the cooking alongside and at the feet, so to speak, of her and my father that solidified my interest in cooking. My real kitchen exploration came years later, but it built upon the foundation of the simple, thoughtful meals we prepared together.
What is the one thing you always had in your kitchen growing up?
Well, to say pasta would be redundant, so I will add brownie mix. My mother loved freshly baked brownies and always had one or two mixes on hand, either to satisfy a potential craving or to be prepared for some unknown upcoming event that she might need to bring something to.
What are five essentials in your home kitchen today?
Peanut butter, quinoa, a variety of vegetables, apples, and eggs.
What is a memorable dish from your childhood and the back story?
So my dad made this dish that we all started referring to as "Dad's Special Chicken." Growing up, my mom cooked more often than my dad, but this was his signature dinner offering for a long time and was definitely everyone's favorite. To this day he perfects, hones, and adapts this recipe. And it continues to impress.
Who inspired you to become a chef and why?
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Both my parents really enjoyed cooking, so I would be remiss to not acknowledge them, but for me it isn't who so much as what. I started cooking and baking regularly when I began a year-long farming internship the year after I graduated college. The produce that we grew was the inspiration in and of itself for me. And baking became the way that I would unwind from a long day in the field. I get such personal gratification each time that I use quality local produce, especially vegetables, in anything that I am preparing. It brings it all full-circle.
The 2016 Pie Social Celebrity Bakers so far:
Adam Allison of SuperFarm
Soraya Medina of Heavenly Bites
Nicholas Hyche of Hilton Phoenix Chandler
Adriana Gomez of Lola Coffee
Sarah Chisholm of Phoenix Public Market Cafe
Cheryl Standage of PIEfection
Holly Heizenrader of MacAlpine’s
Virginia Senior of Urban Beans
Mandy Bublitz of Pane Bianco
Omei Eaglerider of Fry’s Cooking School