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A family tradition
Grandfather-grandson baking team take first place in pie contest
pie contest pic2
The winning pie was baked by Dave Hillenga and his 5-year-old grandson Braydon Johnson. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal

Practice makes perfect. Dave Hillenga and his 5-year-old grandson Braydon Johnson found that old adage to be true on Monday, when they won first place in the pumpkin pie contest that they took second place in last year.

Braydon and Hillenga’s pumpkin pie beat out 64 other entries in the annual contest hosted by local chiropractor Dave Dubyak and benefiting the Daily Bread lunch program of the United Samaritans’ Foundation.

“We were lucky that we could make a pie and people will be lucky to eat a pie,” Hillenga said about why he and Braydon entered the contest.

Baking is an activity that grandfather and grandson often do together. Hillenga said he and Braydon have baked cupcakes and a variety of holiday pies.

“It was fun,” Braydon said about baking the pumpkin pie.

Hillenga would not reveal their winning recipe, but did say the secret was in the spices and the baking.

“What we found makes a difference are the ovens and the cooking times we use,” he said.

As for the spices, Hillenga’s brother is a missionary in Asia and often brings back unique cooking ingredients. When his brother talks about his culinary adventures, “I listen,” Hillenga said.

The contest brought in a total of 115 pies that were donated to the free lunch program — 50 of which were baked by Ceres High School students and were not judged.

Five local judges were tasked with tasting the 65 contest entries on Monday and determining who’s pie was the best — a job they didn’t take lightly.

Judges Jan Tucker, Annie Hendrix, Marie Henry, Shawna Reed and Steve Backus were just as tough as celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsey, Tom Coliccho or Anthony Bourdain. Each pie was judged on appearance, as well as taste and texture of both the crust and the filling.

Many pretty pies were found lacking in the taste category, and conversely the plainest looking of pies often garnered the most praise from the judges.

“Now, that’s a real pie,” Backus said as the last entry was presented, the same pie that turned out to be Braydon and Hillenga’s creation.

The second place winner in the pumpkin pie contest was Hope Kindred.

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.