Home Vashon Living Pumpkin Pie Judge: Best Job Ever!

Pumpkin Pie Judge: Best Job Ever!

Pumpkin Pie Judge: Best Job Ever!
Jeff Berend, third place winner baked is some extra creativity, topping his pie with crusty outline of Vashon - Maury Island.
We three judges of pumpkin pie are, bearing forks we travel afar…

Over the years (just like everyone else) I’ve had some jobs that didn’t speak to my talents, verve or interest, but alas such detours allowed me to know what I didn’t want to do. Sure I survived wearing a plastic name-tag and double-knit polyester McDonald’s tunic one summer, or mowing every lawn in Tucson, Arizona before setting my sights on becoming a busboy, or auditing permanent fund dividends in the state of Alaska (where I learned I was so not a bureaucrat), but such youthful excursions made me a better man, and led me to this very day when I can say I landed my best job ever, that of a pumpkin pie judge.

Utensils? Utensils? We don’t need no stinkin’ utensils!

How do you get to be a pumpkin pie judge? Years and years and years of unwavering devotion to dessert. And while such dedication has done little for my allusion (or perhaps delusion) of  having abs of steels, the power of the pie has drawn me to like-minded aficionados and friends, who know I would take such a judging job as seriously as performing heart surgery. Where some people balk at lard in a crust, I say “Bring it on, but don’t forget the butter for added balance.” When other bakers skimp on the filling, I say “Go ahead, make my day, double it!”   When the unfaithful forget to bring ice cream for the apple pie, I hand them my truck keys, and say “We can wait.” Yep, pie is serious business, and when it comes to appreciating  a forkful of fluted, rolled, plain or fancy pastry, I’m your man.

Jeff Berend, third place winner, baked in some extra creativity, topping his pie with a crusty representation of Vashon – Maury Island.

This year I had the honor along with my friends Megan Hastings and Karen Biondo, both equally and overly-qualified, of judging the pumpkin pie contest at the Vashon Farmers Market. The pies were aplenty, the baking talents impressive, and the trio of crust-loving critics up to the task.

a jury of fine pie judges
Before it got ugly; poised and ready to fulfill our duties.

The pie line-up was as varied as Vashon pie bakers; some used homegrown heirloom pumpkins, others went raw, vegan and gluten-free, but the entrees were all beautiful, tasty and baked with care.

(left to right) Top pie, prettiest pie, gluten-free pie

When it was all said and done, the Yarkin girls showed Vashon’s august bakers how it’s done. Adri placed first, Ella and Madeline second, and Mr. Berend represented silver foxes everywhere with his fine third place showing.

First, third, and second place’s dynamic duo


Instant classic: Adri, this year’s talented young winning baker.

Adri’s pie was classic in every way. Flavor, smoothness, spice and fresh pumpkin taste made her pie the clear winner, though her sisters were a mere crumb away from taking the title, I must say.

As my friend Kate McDermott says, “Learning to make a good pie is a life skill.” Here’s to all the awesome bakers who continue to pass down this delicious tradition. Three judges wish to thank you from the bottom of our full bellies and happy hearts.


  1. Wait…wait…WAIT! My grandparents owned a bakery…I grew up on butter, and flaky crust. ((pouts)) I wanna be a judge too ((evil laugh)). I swear, if you can find me 25+ acres on Vashon, flat (as slopes I have here in spades), be happy to help you co-judge 😉 I’m only…not so very much…joking. We actually are looking for a flatter property. One with pie rights could SOOOO TOTALLY sway me 😛 Yay Adri, like me, you’ve mastered pie in your youth…a huge CONGRATULATIONS! I trust Tom, I know he takes his pie very seriously!!!

    • Finding 25+ flat acres on Vashon would be a challenge, And then when you do, it would likely be heavily forested. I so sorry, because I’d love to share the duty of pie judging with an esteemed baker such as yourself.

  2. I only baked pumpkin pie from scratch once or twice but we are getting inundated with pumpkins and you are motivating me to make it this year! you truly have a blessed life; thanks for sharing it with us.

  3. Tom – you are one lucky man indeed! This makes me want a huge slice of pumpkin pie for breakfast. Would that not be a great way to start your day? I hope you got to take home lots of pumpkin pie leftovers…if there were any!

  4. My mouth is watering! BTW, thank you for letting me know what the odd bit of crust floating in the center of the pie was. I looked a long time before reading what it is. Now it makes total sense and I wonder why I did not see it without help.

    Debs……who has roasted pumpkin left (unseasoned) from making soup that will soon become pie. An important comment only because I have always steamed pumpkin for pie, never roasted.

  5. Waw! What a lucky man you were! Judging & tasting several deliciously looking pumpkin pies! You lucky devil! 🙂
    Congrats to the winners & the young girl who won 1st prize! yeah!!!

    • Uh oh Margaret, did I ramble on a bit about my first jobs? You’re right, pies are much more interesting than mowing lawns in Tucson, ah and that is exactly my point. Happy Thanksgiving Margaret! And thanks for the delicious jar of jam…um saved it for biscuits and waffles.

    • I don’t Eileen, I think that’s that may be the same question your dinner guests must asked after a meal at your house. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

  6. Tom,
    Ah pumpkin pie. Can anything beat that aroma? Well, maybe quince jelly or membrillo.. Wonder if you’ve ever substituted some coconut oil for the butter in the pastry. It has a different melting point than the butter so the pastry is super flaky and the taste- wonderbar!!

    • Hi Sandra, I’m eager to try coconut oil, as it’s new to me, but I’ve heard great things. Thanks for the introduction to a new super flaky (in the good way) option.


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