South Side Pie Challenge redux

Staff Writer

The second annual South Side Pie Challenge will take place in Hyde Park in November. The program is currently seeking contestants and volunteers.

The pie challenge will take place from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 2, at Ray Elementary School, 5631 S. Kimbark Ave. Ray Principal Toni Hill will serve on the judge’s panel along with five other judges including Paula Haney, owner of Hoosier Mama bakery, Michelle Russell, pastry chef at the Parrot Cage and Laruen Bushnell, pastry chef at Peerless Bread and Jam.

Registration is open to everyone from first time bakers to trained pastry chefs, said the event’s coordinator, Julie Vassilatos.

“Everyone from girl scouts to older women who baked when they were younger enter this contest,” Vassilatos said. “The youngest winner was 11 years old and the oldest winner had great-grandchildren.”

The cost to enter is $25 and there are four categories in the competition: sweet potato and pumpkin, fruit, nut and cream.

Each category has three winners. First place winners in all categories will receive a winners ribbon, mug, $100 gift card, a handmade wooden pie box and a cookbook. The other winners will receive the same items – except for the pie box.


Other highlights of the event include children’s activities and live music. Participants can also get a free cup of Robust Coffee with each slice of pie they purchase, which will cost $3.

Vassilatos said after attending a pie contest in the Bucktown neighborhood, she thought, “why aren’t we doing this on the South Side? South Siders can bake too.”

She said shortly after she had that thought, she partnered with Kate Agarwal and chose a beneficiary, which is the Hyde Park Hunger Programs (HPHP). They organized the event in about a month.

Last year, the pie challenge raised about $2,000 for the HPHP.

“I think it’s important to shine a light on the South Side,” Vassilatos said. “We have a lot to offer and we don’t get the best news coverage.”

For more information about the contest, visit