Judges at the National Pie Championships earlier this month in Florida found out what many in Santa Cruz County already knew: Beckmann’s Old World Bakery makes some tasty pies, and the Beckmann’s team now has four best-in-show ribbons after wowing with its pumpkin, cherry, pecan and mixed berry entries.
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Locals know Beckmann’s Old World Bakery makes some mean pies; now it can boast national accolades, too. The Live Oak-based bakery won best in show in four categories at the National Pie Championships held earlier in this month in Florida: pumpkin, cherry, pecan and berry bomb (mixed berry).
The bakery competed in the “super gourmet” category, according to Tony Stumbaugh, Beckmann’s business-development operations manager. This year’s contest, the 26th annual competition, was the first held since 2019 due to the pandemic. For Beckmann’s, it marked the first time the bakery has entered in over a decade, said Stumbaugh, who helped the team take home honors at that event, too. He’d left the company for several years to pursue other opportunities but recently returned and was eager to bring Beckmann’s back to the contest. The bakery has grown considerably since it previously participated, he added.
The Beckmann’s team had to transport ingredients in ice chests for the cross-country flight to the Orlando area, where bakers were then given access to a commercial kitchen to finish baking them. Competitors come from all over the country, and judging happens behind closed doors. Pies are judged on a variety of factors including appearance (both before and after slicing), mouth feel, texture, taste and originality. There are even dedicated pie slicers who help with the judging process. It’s a big deal, Stumbaugh says, followed by festivities afterward, including all-you-can-eat pie. Thousands attend.
A total of 362 pies were entered in the contest, from 24 different makers in the commercial and independent categories, said Mary Deatrick, a spokesperson for the American Pie Council, which hosts the annual event. The council is a national organization focused on promoting programs to grow and improve the pie industry, as well as providing resources on all things pie.
Beckmann’s, founded in 1985, makes nine different varieties of pies, and bakes over 100,000 annually. That includes a peak in November, when the bakery produces some 40,000 pies.