Interview with PieTisserie's Jaynelle St. Jean: 'People Started Calling Me the Pie Lady'

Categories: 'Eat' Extra
Robin Jolin
PieTisserie's Janelle St. Jean.
As I was writing this week's review of roving pie bakers, I spoke to Jaynelle St. Jean, whose "provincial pie window" has settled for the summer at 1015 Clay, a temporary restaurant of sorts in Old Oakland. You can find pictures of her pies, as well as ordering information, on PieTisserie's Facebook page, and if you want to know what varieties of pies she's serving any given day, check her Twitter feed: @pietisserie.

SFoodie: How did PieTisserie get started?

St. Jean: I started it shortly after Valentine's Day last year when I gave pies away out of the window of my mom's house. She lives on a semi-pedestrian street in Noe Valley, so I dressed up the window and sill so it looked like a country window and I gave anyone who came by a slice of pie for free on a glass plate. I had just moved home from New York, and so it was my homecoming. People started calling me the pie lady.

At the time I was looking for job in sustainable agriculture, but had wanted to open up my own business. I thought, "Maybe I'll be the pie lady?" So I worked with a friend who's an industrial designer to create a portable country window.

I started doing the Underground Market and Outside In [street cart gatherings]. I also started bringing the window wherever I wanted to be. When I moved to Oakland, I'd set up the window and do public pie baking near Lake Merritt. I'd compose a pie from scratch, place bids on it, and donate the money to a local organization.

How did you end up at 1015 Clay?

The business side developed word of mouth. As I was looking for how I would expand I started making a lot of deliveries and baking for corporate clients. I was looking at cafes, but nothing was working out. Then I developed a relationship with Jesse Branstetter, a neighbor who was a great chef at the Chop Bar and liked PieTisserie. He told me, "We're going to open up a new venture on Clay Street. We're building a bar in back, but in the meantime, we're going to call it no name -- 1015 Clay, the address -- and then open it as a new spot in the fall. There's a window in the front, and I think it would be a great venue for your PieTisserie storefront."

Now I rent a space where I can sell pie. I fashioned the window to look a little like my mobile country window, and I bake out of the back. It's wonderful! The restaurant and PieTisserie feed one another. People who come for a pie can eat lunch, or they can try my pie by the slice. And lunch customers who want dessert can have some.

So what are you going to do when 1015 Clay ends in the fall?

I don't know yet. Jesse said, "I don't know what I'm going to do. There's going to be a total upheaval when I kick you out." [Laughs.] Basically, when I'm not baking or shopping, I prospect for new locations.

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Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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