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3-Course Interview: Betsy Foster Matthews 

Sarah Baird talks to the pie baker behind P’s and Q’s

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What was the inspiration for opening a pie shop?

Matthews: I think for a long time after graduating from art school, there was a part of me that said, "Wouldn't it be so cute if I ran a pie shop and it was called P's and Q's for 'pies' and 'quiche'?" The breaking point finally came when my husband Jude was working at the racetrack and I was waiting tables, and I was just like, "If I wait one more table, I'm going to go crazy." We decided to jump in with both feet and do it.

  I knew that if I tried it and failed at 27, which was how old I was when we opened, it would be a lot less terrible than if I waited to try it out and had four kids. I feel like we kind of cheated the system because we didn't have a ton of restaurant experience, but it's been working out for us.

What were the first days of the business like?

M: At first, I thought that I just wanted to bake pies out of our house and sell them around town at farmers markets and events. I went to get a permit for it and the lady just shook her head and said, "Oh no, baby, that's illegal." It seemed so weird to me that it was against the law to sell pies baked out of your house. I think the Legislature changed that this year, but at the time it was a big hurdle. So, we decided to open a full-fledged shop [P's and Q's] instead.

  The first day we were open, the pies we sold were the first pies we had ever baked in the new, professional kitchen. The oven racks didn't even come in until right before we opened, so there was no time to test anything out.

  I remember for the Fourth of July last year, it was the first day we were insanely swamped. At the end of it, we looked at each other and said, "How on earth did we just make that many pies?"

What's your best-selling pie?

M: We change up our menu every week depending on the season, so by default it's our chocolate cream pie since it's constantly on the menu. I would say that our fruit pies are always really popular — strawberry, blueberry and we're getting our cherries in next week. Using seasonal ingredients is important because it just tastes better, and no amount of lemon juice or sugar can mask when fruit is just not good. We're also doing some testing right now with hand pies and looking to do quite a bit more wholesale.

  On the quiche front, our crawfish pie and tomato pie are also really popular. We have some people come in during the winter and ask if we have the tomato pie in stock, and I'm just like, "You really don't want to eat a tomato pie with January tomatoes, trust me."

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