Angela Pinkerton / Owner, Pie Society, San Francisco, California
Pies so delicious they produce audible gasps of delight and prompt people to say “best pie ever!” This is how a San Francisco Chronicle writer described Pie Society in early 2021, when simple pleasures made all the difference in a day. Helping people through the pandemic with modern takes on “grandma style” pies was exactly the point when pastry chef Angela Pinkerton started Pie Society out of a friend’s shuttered Oakland restaurant kitchen in September 2020.
Those lucky enough to be in the San Francisco Bay Area on January 23 can celebrate National Pie Day with a slice of Angela’s pie. Her Passion Fruit Bay Leaf Meringue Pie, with The Perfect Purée Passion Fruit Concentrate, may be the most legendary flavor to come out of the Berkeley Kitchen Workshop where she baked 8,000 pies in her first year. No matter how it’s spelled (one word or two), the plum-sized purplish-yellow tree fruit native to Brazil inspires fervor for the sweet-tart flavor of its juicy yellow insides dotted with black seeds.
Angela has been using The Perfect Purée Passion Fruit Concentrate since opening Pie Society, after relying on a European brand for most of her career.
“When I tried [The Perfect Purée Passion Fruit Concentrate] it was far superior in color and flavor and the fact that The Perfect Purée is in Napa, it seemed silly not to switch over,” she says.
Like many rigorous chefs, Angela considers pre-packaged purées secondary to fresh fruit and when passion fruit is in season she uses it to complement the purée in her passion fruit pie. A self-described passion fruit fan girl with a penchant for fruit-and-herb flavor combinations, Angela also loves bay leaf and considers it underutilized in recipes.
“Both have qualities that play really well off each other,” she says. “It’s unusual but just enough to pique interest.”
The most homey and traditional of Pie Society’s offerings, like Biscuit Topped Chicken Pot Pie, are memorable because of their high-quality ingredients. Flavors change with the seasons and rely on Bay Area farmers and purveyors for craveable balance and texture. Pie Society collaborates with local businesses for pop-up distribution in San Francisco and the greater Bay Area and continually donates pies to fundraisers for progressive political and social organizations.
For now, Pie Society’s Workshop kitchen on Seventh Street in West Berkeley is where all the magic happens. The workshop is open for walk-in orders Wednesday-Saturday and sells pies online for pick-up at Ritual Coffee in San Francisco. But Angela is exploring a larger Bay Area production and retail location and developing a label of confections and sweets called Pinkerton Confectionery.
Angela learned to appreciate the natural beauty of food and the seasons growing up in the hills of northeastern Ohio tending the family garden and working in her grandparents’ orchard.
The same experiences taught her to appreciate the success that comes from hard work. Angela moved to Washington, D.C., in 2005 to attend L’Academie de Cuisine’s pastry program and hone the discipline and perfection that are part of her technique.
Angela spent two years in the pastry kitchens of the Ritz Carlton then moved to New York in 2007 and rose through the ranks at Eleven Madison Park. She eventually became executive pastry chef and in 2011 earned the James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef while contributing to the restaurant’s four-star review from The New York Times and three stars from the Michelin Guide.
Angela moved to San Francisco in 2014 to oversee the production kitchen of the San Francisco pastry shop Craftsman & Wolves, where she helped develop new products and guided the team through expansion in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Also in San Francisco, Angela created and implemented the pastry program for Che Fico, awarded Bon Appetit’s Hottest Ten of 2018, as well as the newer Che Fico Alimentari.
Now, all signs point to Angela and Team Pie Society making the world a better place one pie at a time long after the pandemic. As the website declares, it is small, but mighty and growing. Most importantly, “Be well and treat yourself and others with kindness, and eat pie for breakfast.”