by Becky Liscum
photographs courtesy of Maya-Camille Broussard
Maya-Camille Broussard has two distinct memories from her childhood. One is in the kitchen: “My dad was obsessed with baking quiches and pies. It was very common for me to wake up on a Saturday morning to find him in the kitchen wearing a toque and baking,” Broussard recalls. “He often called himself the ‘Pie Master’ and every time he did, my natural reaction was to roll my eyes.”
The other recollection is seeing her father, Stephen Broussard, defending his clients in Cook County courtrooms. The prominent criminal defense attorney was known for his commanding, theatrical presence in court. He instilled in a young Maya-Camille that even though some people have committed crimes, they still deserve a chance to do better in life.
Her dad held court in the family kitchen. Back home—with roots deep in New Iberia and Lake Charles, Louisiana—food was a central theme for generations in the Broussard family. “If my aunt baked something, he’d taste it … compliment it … and then proceed to inform her that her filling was good, but his crust was better.”
Maya-Camille pursued a life outside of both kitchen and court. She studied art, became a teacher and became involved in community outreach programs. By 2009 she was in the throes of opening a gallery, Three Peas Art Lounge, in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood. One week before the opening, Stephen Broussard died unexpectedly at age 60, leaving a huge gap in Maya-Camille’s life.
Months later when the family gathered for his memorial service, a relative approached her with the idea of starting a foundation, “where we would bake pies in his memory,” she recalls. With so much on her plate already, she says, that was too much to add to the mix. “So I pushed her idea to the side with a smile and simply said ‘Yeah, that would be cool’ and mentally filed it as ‘Something I might want to do down the line but I absolutely couldn’t fathom doing it now…’”
The gallery was successful for a few years but had to close due to the expense of flood damage. “I was still searching for my next endeavor,” she recalls.
Then, on a trip to San Francisco, she wandered into the bakery Mission Pie, a for-profit business that cares about fairness, according to the company’s website.
“It hit me like a ton of bricks. I said to myself, ‘Wait a minute … this right here is what I’m supposed to do next.’” Maya-Camille says she truly believes her father sent her that message during the gathering to celebrate his life. “But I wasn’t listening. Walking into that pie shop, I was now all ears,” she says.
Over the course of the next year and a half she developed a menu of savory and sweet pies, then perfected the recipes. She crafted unique combinations such as her Duck Duck Goose quiche, an Heirloom Tomato tart and dozens of seasonal pies including Honey Ginger Peach and Lavender Blueberry.
And, she formed her new mission-oriented business, Justice of the Pies, with a goal to hire disadvantaged individuals who need a second chance at life. While still in the early stages of developing her business, she is single-handedly baking her sweet and savory pies and has team members exploring partnerships with nonprofit organizations. “The more pies I sell, the more quickly I’m able to hire people to fill the demand and to produce even more pies!” she says. That’s something she knows her dad would be proud of.
“My crust is the best crust ever. It’s better than his.” And, as a side note, she adds, “He’d be absolutely tickled” at her declaration of the facts.
Justice of the Pies can be found at Green City Market in the West Loop, Daley Plaza Farmers Market, in select Whole Foods stores this fall or by ordering online: justiceofthepies.com.
Becky Liscum is a co-publisher of Edible Chicago who loves to share a good story and a great piece of pie. When she’s not writing, she is often out in the field producing videos with her award-winning production company, Story Buzz Media.