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Home of Economy-Grand Forks Herald event seeking top pie bakers for late-summer event

Deadline for entrants to apply is July 8. The winner will get to choose between a pie safe (value of $1,400) or a $500 gift card, courtesy of Home of Economy. Also, the winner will get $500 cash, in

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Team Alerus (front row) Mallory Berdal, Ashley Champagne, Tammy Schmitz and Claire Herland (back row) Miranda Flaat, Dean Kuhns, Aubrey Barney, Cheryl Wasylow, Jack Bloom and Andrea Underwood get ready to sample a key lime pie and rhubarb-berry pie baked by Tammy Schmitz.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS – Have you ever been told you make an outstanding lemon meringue pie, your pecan pie is to die for, or your Dutch apple pie is simply out-of-this-world delicious?

Then you may be one of the 16 bakers being sought by the Grand Forks Herald and Home of Economy to enter the first-ever Greater Grand Forks Pie Bake-Off, a head-to-head tournament that will span four consecutive weeks.

The winner of the contest, which begins Aug. 22, will choose between a $500 gift card or a Country View Woodworking pie safe, valued at $1,400. Both prizes are courtesy of the Home of Economy.

Also, the winning baker will receive $500 from the Grand Forks Herald, in the name of the winning baker’s sponsor.

Bakers do not need to be a resident of Grand Forks or East Grand Forks to enter.

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Already, some are making early preparations. At Alerus Financial — one of the businesses backing the event — Tammy Schmitz, who will represent Alerus Financial in the contest, made a key lime pie and rhubarb-berry pie for her coworkers Tuesday, June 21.

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Alerus Financial's Tammy Schmitz serves up a slice of her key lime pie for staff Tuesday, June 21, 2022.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Schmitz is one of the first to sign up for the competition. She responded to an email sent to employees by the bank’s marketing team, looking for contestants, she said. “I just love to cook and share my experiences, so I thought why not give it a try? … I just thought it would be fun.”

Schmitz, a corporate project manager at Alerus Financial, has never competed in a food-making competition.

“I’ve never made pies before,” she said. “I’m not really a pie maker, but I like to cook, so this is my first. I like to try cooking with other people and learning things, so this worked out well.”

As a follower of Molly Yeh and the author of Half-Baked Harvest online, Schmitz turned to them for inspiration and “put just a tiny little spin” on recipes she found there, she said.

“I’m looking forward to (the contest); it should be fun. What a neat idea.”

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A slice of Tammy Schmitz' rhubarb-berry pie.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Anyone who wishes to enter, to nominate a baker, or seeks information should email pie@gfherald.com or call (701) 780-1100. There is no cost to enter the contest. The entry deadline is July 8.

The 16 participants will be chosen by the Herald from entrants and nominations. Non-professional bakers will get preference.

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Cost of ingredients, up to $25 per week, will be covered with gift cards, courtesy of Home of Economy. Finely granulated, powdered and brown sugar will be donated by American Crystal Sugar Company.

“We are excited to showcase, along with the Home of Economy, the community’s best pie-makers in the Greater Grand Forks Pie Bake-Off,” said Korrie Wenzel, Herald publisher. “We know there are plenty of wonderful bakers in our area, and we invite them to come forward and exhibit their pie-making expertise.

“If pie-making is your specialty – or if you know someone who makes outstanding pies – now is the time to get on board to compete in this tournament.”

Wenzel explained how the event came about.

“We’ve noticed in recent years that many of our advertisers also are interested in events,” he said. “We had a pie bake-off at my last newspaper about a decade ago and it went over well, creating a lot of comments and talk within the community. So it just seemed natural to try to do the same thing here in Grand Forks, but on a bigger scale.

“Why a four-week pie contest? Because it’s different than any other event out in the community right now,” Wenzel said. “It’s just a great example of Americana, and pie is pretty much something that everybody enjoys."

Wenzel said the key now is to fill out the field of bakers. Of the entries and nominations that come in, the Herald will choose the 16 from that pool based a bit on the bakers' backgrounds and — if needed — a random drawing.

“The idea behind this really is to have a fun event – something that will be interesting to the community while promoting the talents of our field of 16 bakers and also bringing attention to the sponsors who have committed to come on board,” Wenzel said. “But ‘fun’ is the key word.”

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Aside from Home of Economy, baker sponsors are Wall’s Pharmacy, Hugo’s, Hope Church, Altru Health System, Harry’s Steakhouse, Ground Round, Grand Forks-East Grand Forks Chamber of Commerce, Toasted Frog, Alerus Financial, North Dakota Mill, Valley Senior Living, Bremer Bank, American Crystal Sugar Company, Northern Roots Boutique, Lighting Gallery and Blue Moose.

Among the judges will be Kristen Whitney, executive chef at the North Dakota Museum of Art Cafe, and Lane Leech, head chef at Harry's Steakhouse.

Here are more contest rules:

  • Contest entries should include a short biography about the baker, to be used in promotional materials. A photo eventually will be required of each contestant, also to be used in promotional materials, but is not required upon entry. A phone number must be included with each nomination or entry.
  • Recipes must accompany each pie. The recipes may be used in promotional or future marketing.
  • Professional bakers or chefs are not restricted from entry, but non-professionals are preferred. 
  • Bakers will bring their pies to the judging site each Monday morning, starting Aug. 22. All 16 bakers will compete in the first round, but half will be eliminated each week until a champion is crowned. 
  • Pies will be blindly judged, meaning judges will not know whose pies they are tasting.
  • Bakers cannot repeat a pie recipe until the championship round. 
  • Only sweet pies will be judged. Savory pies — those containing meat, etc. — are discouraged.     

For questions or clarification on the rules, email pie@gfherald.com or call (701) 780-1103.

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Related Topics: GFH PIES
Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at pknudson@gfherald.com or (701) 780-1107.
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