The pie king

Published 11:41 am Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Mike Cohn is a Renaissance man. He rides a motorcycle for fun, works on trucks for his Chelsea business, 4×4 Rockshop, and bakes prize-winning pies.

His two forays into pie contests came Sept. 15 at the Shelby County Fair, when he entered his Mike’s Moved to the Country Started Baking Apple Pie and his Grammie’s Pumpkin Pie into the baked pastry contests. The apple pie won a second-place ribbon while the pumpkin pie brought home a third-place finish.

Cohn said entering the contest came out of a joke. Once Cohn started baking about a year ago, he and his wife began kidding each other about entering his pies into the contest. Then, as time for the fair got closer, Cohn decided to go for it. Going for it took some time, however. It took five hours to bake both pies on Sunday night before the contest.

“In my mind, as I was baking on Sunday night, all over the county there’s a bunch of blue-haired women baking pies,” Cohn said, laughing. “I just made my first pie last Thanksgiving. It came out so good, I just kept going.”

While both pies won prizes, their recipes came from very different beginnings.

“The pumpkin pie is based on a recipe my sister got by frantically trying to write down what my grandmother was doing 20 years ago,” Mike said. “The apple pie was mostly out of a book, and then I changed it a little bit.”

Cohn said he bakes because it allows him to take his mind off work and focus on something different. With the economy’s downturn, his vehicle accessory shop’s had a hard time, but winning the contest gave him something else to think about, he said.

“I’ve just been smiling for the week and a half since I won,” he said. “It’s been a good reason to smile.”

Cohn said he entered the fair to get the word out about his shop. He actually had a commercial booth highlighting the 4×4 Rockshop – and that booth won him another third-place ribbon in the best booths competition.

Next year he hopes to win more ribbons for his pies. He doesn’t know yet if he’ll stick with the same entries or try new ones.

“I’ve done a blackberry pie. I tried a chocolate pie but it didn’t turn out too well,” he said. “I thought about making a gooseberry pie, but I didn’t think anybody would eat it.”

The worst part about this year’s fair was not being able to test the quality of his pies before turning them in, he said.

“There’s only one way to test a pie,” he said. “I had to turn them in without tasting them.”

However, when he’s at home, he has a willing team of taste-testers.

“My wife won’t even let them cool off,” he said.