Eyes on the pies: Marin Country Mart holds 10th annual pie baking contest

Kate DeForrest

On Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022, the Marin Country Mart hosted their 10th annual pie baking contest. Echoes of live music filled the stands of the Marin Country Mart Farmers’ Market, kids bobbing their heads and shoppers moving from stand to stand, admiring cases of pastries, clothes and even live shellfish. Countless pumpkins lined the paths, their scent and the smell of cinnamon hanging heavy in the air. A line snaked in front of a checked red and white table, adults, kids and families holding trays of pies, covered with glinting tin foil.

Lining up to enter their pies, contestants stare down their competition from this year’s contest.

Although many of the submissions were adults, a 14 and under category allowed younger bakers to enter their own pies in the contest. After being submitted, they were judged by professional experts on their taste, presentation and the flakiness of the crust. The top three bakers from both the youth and adult competitions were awarded gift certificates to various Marin Country Mart stores at an award ceremony later that afternoon. Even though the competition had been smaller in the past due to COVID-19, Diana Rodgers, the Director of Events for the Marin Country Mart, acknowledges a surge in submissions this year.

“[The competition has] always been popular, but during the pandemic, [participation] really dipped. We had [the event] last year, and we only had about four pies, and now today, we have at least 40. It’s nice to see people rallying again and getting excited about the contest,” Rodgers said.

Since the contest began 10 years ago, new and broader awards have gradually been added, which, this year, included most creative pie and best overall crust. Even though the event revolves around the competitor’s pies, local bakery Three Babes Bakeshop entertained the crowd and sold their own variety of pies. Zoe Williams, a baker at the Three Babes Bakeshop, led an hour-long pie-making demonstration during the contest. She has been a judge for the past three years and has always enjoyed seeing the wide variety of submissions. 

Rolling out pie crust, Three Babes Bakeshop baker Zoe Williams demonstrates how to make a pecan pie.

“People put so much of, not just their effort, but their soul into things when they bake, and [so] it’s fun to see people trying different things; they get so creative,” Williams said.

Although Williams did not always plan to be a baker, she found it allowed her to be in an exciting and stimulating environment, unlike her previous desk job. She encourages others to try baking and enter the contest next year, even if they may find it difficult.

“I think that baking is this interesting mix of skill, intuition and creativity. You must have the knowledge, but you also must have the confidence to try things and make mistakes. I think that when you combine all of those things and take risks, and they pay off, that’s incredibly rewarding,” Williams said.

Tamalpais High School student, Lilianna Marinozzi began baking at a young age and entered the competition for the first time this year. After hearing about the contest from her mother, Marinozzi decided to bake a honey apple pie, which proved to be a long process.

Crowded onto the table, both sweet and savory pies are entered in the Marin Country Mart’s pie baking contest.

“We had to figure out what pie dough to make because you had to make it from scratch. Then we had to test different recipes and I had to finalize the designs,” Marinozzi said. “[It was] a little bit tedious, especially [because] we had to start the pie last night, so it was really late, and we had to get up this morning to finish it.”

Despite the challenge, Marinozzi won second place in the youth competition this year and plans on entering the contest again next year. She finds that one of the most important parts about baking is how it can bring together both friends and families in a community. 

Sophomore Audrey Markovich, creator of the dessert shop Sprinkled by Audrey, also sees the value of a baking community and the exciting prospect of one beginning at Redwood.

Decorated with cookies, grape stems and toffee, Del Mar Middle school student Gia Lazarov created her pie to represent her favorite holiday, Halloween.

“There’s a baking club that was just started, and I think it will be cool to start a baking community. It’s fun to talk with other people that talk about different recipes and skills, so they’ve learned [about baking],” Markovich said.

Although she did not enter the contest on Saturday, Markovich has participated in baking contests in the past and has enjoyed the creativity and learning experience. 

Rodgers stresses the importance of creativity in baking and enjoys contests because they allow participants to submit and share their own unique recipes.

“We’re in a world of people buying everything ready-made but [it’s important] to get back to the kitchen and do it yourself. Everybody has their favorite pie [that] they’re proud of from Thanksgiving or various holidays, and it’s nice for more than just the family to get to taste it and see how it stands up against everything else,” Rodgers said.