The Secrets of Eagle Rock’s Pie Maven

Originally published to Eater LA December 2016

While there’s plenty of pie in Los Angeles, the pursuit for an especially memorable slice in the city is a struggle, according to KnowRealityPie’s owner Tracy DeVore.

“I mean, there’s a few scattered places. I think they have okay pie but ours is better,” she says without a single note of pretentiousness in her voice. The retired paralegal and KCRW two-time Good Food Pie Contest winner speaks modestly from her own experience, which she gained through self-teaching, restaurant baking, and later teaching classes for 10 years.

The pies that DeVore bakes are enough evidence to her declaration. The 250-plus pies she bakes every day are made fresh from her home kitchen at 3 A.M. every morning and sell out regularly every weekend when her retail space is open along Colorado Blvd in Eagle Rock. As DeVore describes her pies, they’re “not crazy crazy flavors but just good old fashioned pie with an artisan twist.” The flavors come from simple ideas, yet each pie has one or two additional features that make them a uniquely decadent experience.

For example, many have told DeVore that her sea salt caramel mango-passion, a best seller in the shop, is an unexpectedly delightful combination of sweets. A mixture of tropical mangoes, passion fruit, and salty caramel is topped with a crumble finish and a dash of Maldon sea salt. The apple cider cream, a holiday seasonal pie, is a “double-whammy” of Granny Smith and Pink Lady apples with a boozy touch of a cider-spiked whipped cream layer dusted with spicy cinnamon seasoning. DeVore’s ingredients come from local markets across the city and change out according to the season.

While DeVore is part of a network of “pie people” who brainstorm flavors together, she uses this as inspiration to add her own flair to the table. Her award-winning triple berry cabernet pie is an example of such.

“I’m originally from Northern California and I lived in wine country when I came up with that and I thought, ‘Wow. What would red wine do to those berries?’ Because a lot of wine or liquor can enhance the flavor, but it’ll cook out and it just imparts a little jazz to it.”

Serving out of a former storage closet-turned-retail space, KnowRealityPie’s location is just one of many forms that the shop has evolved from in its three years of existence.

The company, started by business partners and high school sweethearts Tracy DeVore and Kelly Deco, began developing with recipes that were tweaked from DeVore’s mother, who was also an avid pie baker. KnowRealityPie became a concept through the need for real pie and Deco’s own “No Reality” music video he created from his former days in music.

“He was like, ‘People need to know real pie!’” she remembers. “It’s a connection from his ‘No Reality’ and we think that people don’t know what real pie is—and the reality is that they don’t want to bake them either! They’d rather just go down the street and buy one.”

After starting online in 2014, the couple served out of a food truck, eventually settling as a six-month pop-up across from Meea’s Hot Dog Courtyard on Eagle Rock Boulevard. Once that lease was up, they scrambled to find a new space, gradually making their way to their current location on Townsend Avenue. In between personal pie orders and the weekend retail business, KnowRealityPie also offers movie set deliveries during the week.

While Tracy’s unique flavors serve as good enough reason to grab yourself a slice, she further confirms her baking skills from entries in the 2015 and 2016 KCRW’s Good Food Pie Contest, a contest that judges based off of a variety of traits like presentation, best crust, and best in categories like fruit, Cuban, and vegan.

“We just wanted to see, do we have some chops or not? Is it really a blind taste test? Do people really think the pies are good? I think a lot of people go to open shops and restaurants and things and maybe their product really isn’t necessarily that great. But their families tell them it is so we just go, ‘Let’s go a little further and see!’”

DeVore even applied this year under her maiden name to mask the judge’s familiarity with her work. This year, T.A. Thole won best sweet potato pie (a sweet potato cornbread pie), best fruit pie (berries gone wild), and received third place for the salted caramel mango guava rum pie.

While KnowRealityPie has seen tremendous success over the last couple years, having received a few franchise opportunities, DeVore wants to keep the business in Eagle Rock. What she really wants is a damn kitchen to bake in.

“I would like to stay in Eagle Rock and also would like to be in a place that has a kitchen. It would be so much easier for me. We have to lug everything around and it gets a bit difficult. I’m really interested in that idea of keeping it small and keeping control over the quality. We’re just gonna go this year and see what happens.”

KnowRealityPie. 5106 Townsend Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90041. 916-799-5772
Open weekends, call for hours.

 

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