Have you ever considered a culinary career? Many people get into food-related businesses because of a general love of food and cooking (that’s partly why I started this blog). Others fall into it after trying something else. Christine Nguyen, founder of Mama Crank’s Pies, was inspired by both paths.
Carma’s Cookery: What drew you to a culinary career in the first place?
Christine Nguyen: I’ve always been interested in food. When I was little, I would pore over my mother’s cookbooks and spend most weekends watching cooking shows on PBS instead of cartoons. Experimenting with food and flavors was always a hobby of mine, but not one I considered a career until a few years going in and out of traditional university. I initially wanted to major in English and be a writer, but was nervous at the idea of such an inconstant muse and unreliable success. So I decided to go into the culinary field because I figured, hey, my muse was hunger and I’d always be hungry.
CC: How did you discover your love of pie making in particular?
CN: I remember making pies a lot in culinary school during pastry classes and enjoying it, but I didn’t do it often professionally once I became a chef. It wasn’t until I was at home on maternity leave after my daughter was born that I really reconnected with my love of pies. It was probably part of a nesting thing.
CC: What about making pies to you enjoy the most?
CN: It started with just the soothing element of making and rolling out the dough, but soon I became really interested in putting a distinctive spin on traditional filling flavors. I also loved to make my pies more and more decorative as I really nailed down a great dough recipe. I enjoy making my pies as aethestically pleasing as they are delicious.
CC: How did you found Mama Crunk’s Pies?
CN: I found Mama Crunk’s Pies when I stopped working to stay home with my daughter and realized I could never truly stop working. I started Mama Crunk’s last spring and debuted it at our local Chattanooga Market, which has nearly 3,000 vendors to great success and interest.
CC: Where does your nick name “Crunk” come from?
CN: Crunk is a nickname given to me by friends from college days, shortened from “Crunkstine”. If you look it up on urban dictionary, you can finding the meaning, ha. Basically one who enjoys partaking in the party. “Mama Crunk” came as a natural extension, because by the end of the night, I’d always end up cooking for all my inebriated friends and mothering them with drunk munchies.
CC: What are your favorite pies to make and why?
CN: My favorite pies to make are usually custom orders. I have particular popular pies, like my raspberry and chocolate, salted bourbon caramel apple and blueberry lavender vanilla, that I enjoy to make and eat, but I really like to take the ideas and tastes of a customer and try to figure out how make a pie out of it. For instance, a customer wanted to give his wife a Valentine’s day pie that was a riff on Strawberry Shortcake. So I made a pie covered in hearts with strawberry balsamic compote and lemon marscapone twirl. I love doing stuff like that.
CC: What’s your best tip for pie-making?
CN: Make a great dough and learn how it’s supposed to look and feel. Rely more on your senses than a recipe. Great dough is super easy to make, but rare to find. The key is high-quality ingredients (I’m from the all-butter crust camp, but it’s debatable), super cold ingredients, and knowing when you’ve added enough water (the dough should never be too wet or dry).
CC: Do you sell your pies outside of your hometown? If so, how can someone order them?
CN: I sell my pies outside of Chattanooga, mostly within the Southeast/Mid-Atlantic and parts of the western regions. Check my website, www.mamacrunkspies.com for more information!
Create Your Own Unique Pie!
Does pie making daunt you? Are you wary of deviating from any pie-recipe you find, for fear that you’ll ruin the flavor of the resulting pie?
It doesn’t have to be that way!
Pie-Palooza 2017 is brought to you by Your Perfect Pie, a cookbook that breaks down pies into easily made component parts so you can unleash your pie-making creativity. Available on Amazon in both print and Kindle formats. Grab your copy today and start creating your perfect pie!