Chris Collins of Grassroots Kitchen and Tap: Pie Social Celebrity Bakers 2014

Chris Collins of Grassroots Kitchen and Tap: Pie Social Celebrity Bakers 2014
Lauren Saria

Forks up, Phoenix! Chow Bella and Roosevelt Row present the fifth annual Pie Social from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, November 15, at the "What Should Go Here" Pop Up Park at Second and Roosevelt streets. 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 through a quick Pie.Q. quiz to test their baking prowess.

Today: Chris Collins of Grassroots Kitchen and Tap

Chris Collins doesn't just like pie, he freakin' loves it. As proof, consider that his first job was carrying out pies at his dads' restaurant when he was just six years old -- and that was back when his pops, Wally of Wally's American Pub and Grill, ran the mother of all pie restaurants: Marie Callender's. Collins went on to serve pie -- not cake -- at his wedding and these days the chef lets his love for pie hang out at his two Valley restaurants. Both the Scottsdale and Phoenix locations of Grassroots offer pie for dessert, though Collins insists on making only one flavor at a time to ensure freshness. The Key Lime Pie has become the restaurant's signature offering; it's so popular that Collins says he recently had a customer break down in tears upon learning it isn't available everyday. (Word to the wise, call ahead.)

See also: Eddie Castillo of AZ Food Crafters: Pie Social Celebrity Bakers 2014

A slice of apple pie from Grassroots Kitchen and Tap.
A slice of apple pie from Grassroots Kitchen and Tap.
Lauren Saria

It's 15 minutes until Pie Social and you drop a pie: What do you do? I would create a distraction, steal a pie off my neighbors, make a new whipped cream, and a new garnish so no one would know.

What's the single most important tool in pie making? A perfectly calibrated oven.

What's the most important ingredient in a pie crust? Removing all of your fat solids from your clarified butter.

What's the secret to the perfect fruit filling consistency? We just add a little bit of lemon. The citrus just gives it a fresh, tart flavor.

Hand pie, pie in a jar, or no mini pies EVER? At The Roots we're keeping it basic -- whole pies or nothing.

What's on your pie-making playlist? When I think of pie I think of good old American classics so Ray Charles, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry -- feel good music.

What will be the next big pie trend? Apparently, putting them in jars.

You have to make 100 pies in 5 hours. Who you gonna call for help? My father, Wally. He owned and operated a Marie Callender's for over 20 years. He's baked thousands and thousands and thousands of pie.

How do you spend your down time while your pies are in the oven? This is a restaurant kitchen so we mis en place the next dish. There is no down time.

In one word, what's your strategy for competing as a celebrity baker this year? "Lagniappe." It's a southern term for "just a little bit extra."

Inside Grassroots Kitchen and Tap in Phoenix.
Inside Grassroots Kitchen and Tap in Phoenix.
Lauren Saria

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