"Pies are the new cupcake," she says.
The pie competition is part of the event, "Eat Pie and Shop," a bake sale and craft-fair to benefit PS 29. The cafeteria at the school is packed, but everyone seems to know each other. Family and friends mill around tasting and every so often chase after their children.
Lauren Gottlieb, co-president of the PTA, says this is the second year the baking competition has been such a big event. Last year Gail Simmons of Just Deserts was involved and borough president Marty Markowitz is making a repeat appearance this year as the announcer of the winner.
"We are so happy to be able to host an event that raises money for the school, but is also enjoyable for us and our families," Gottlieb says while picking up her daughter scampering around at her feet.
Parents are in their children's territory for the afternoon and the younger generation is not hesitant to show their parents the ropes. Amy Metsch and PS 29 student, Leo Gordon, keep busy behind the cream pie table.
"He is here to sell his mom's pies," Metsch says.
A couple of booths down Gordon's mother, Lauren Young, is dressed in a bright apron and bandana. One of the seasoned chefs of the afternoon, Young baked 3 savory pies and one pumpkin cream, but didn't enter all of them in the competition.
"Not everyone enters, some people just donate," she says while dishing out the savory slices.
There are four categories for the competition: nutty, fruity, creamy and savory. Judges select the best of each category and an over-all winner. Tensions are high in the cafeteria.
In the far corner the panel of parents and teachers cull through the contestants before the celebrities have their say. Ryan Martin and Rosanne Giglio are hunkered over a table of cream pies, trying to make the final decision.
"Sweet and creamy is a hard category," Giglio says, making a face when she tastes one. "I like the nutty ones myself."
The two exchange worried glances.
"It's a tough call," Giglio says, "but we've got to eliminate somebody."
Crowd consensus favors the savory. Christina Curtis, mother of a PS 29 student, tastes the root vegetable pie with sweet sausage.
"It's unusual, sometimes root vegetables can be dull but this is well seasoned."
While parents gather at the savory table, the celebrity judges are nibbling on the final contestants.
Payard confers with local restaurant owner Jeff Lederman while the Top Chef women cut another slice. Two men from the Marines, Lance Corporal Bruce and Lance Corporal Ellis, volunteered to plate pie for the event and were invited to step in last minute as an extra set of taste buds on the judging panel.
Last year's winner, Steve Park, watches from the sidelines.
"The competition is very stiff," he says in a serious tone. "All of these are really amazing pies."
As the judges are wrapping up the tasting, Markowitz appears.
"Oh I can't have any pie today," he says, declining a plate. "My wife is watching me like a hawk."
Tallies are counted and Markowitz takes the microphone to announce Jane Heaphy, a mother at PS 29, as the winner for her pecan pie. She thanks Markowitz and beams at the crowd. As the raffle winner is being announced, Heaphy jokes that with this kind of luck, she will probably win that, too. To her surprise, she is having good luck and the announcer calls Heaphy up to receive her second prize of the day.
"This is such a wonderful school," says Simmons while milling around the craft fair after. "And also a really great event because there is pie and pie makes everything better."