On the day before Thanksgiving the narrow kitchen in the back of Latif’s Restaurant is teeming with bakers in pie dough crusted aprons, their faces dusted in flour. There is a large refrigerated room filled with vats of pie filling, pounds of dough on the counters, and a contagious holiday spirit as employees pitch in to make the restaurant's biggest pie-baking days of the year a success.
Latif’s is a family owned and operated restaurant in Turlock that churns out over 1,000 pies on top of its regular daily operations during Thanksgiving. With six bakers that work in shifts around the clock the week of Thanksgiving, hundreds of families in the area can avoid bearing the shame of bringing a stale, store bought pie to Thanksgiving and instead impress guests with Latif’s hand-crafted flavors.
On Wednesday morning 600 pies lined the tables and counters of Latif’s as owner Robert Stevens organized the alphabetized boxes and aided customers with order pickups. With 400 more pies to produce by Thursday, the back of the kitchen was just as busy with bakers as the front of the restaurant was with customers.
“I work in shifts of about six and a half hours and typically produce about 100 pies an hour. I like to bake them all but usually stick to fruit pies; I love it,” said Trini Garcia, a Latif’s employee since the 1960s.
Pumpkin and boysenberry are among the most popular flavors for Thanksgiving though Latif’s offers numerous others including apple, peach, apricot, rhubarb, pecan, three cream pies of chocolate, lemon and coconut which all have a fired meringue topping.
“We don’t put a single thing out of a can in our pies,” said Jim Stevens, original owner of the restaurant since 1971, that now belongs to his son Robert.
Pie production at Latif’s has developed a solid reputation and business has steadily increased over the years. The restaurant usually has to cut off pie orders the Sunday before Thanksgiving each year, and this year the increase in orders caused Stevens to push back the date to the Thursday before the big day. The number of customers who come to pick up their pies is a testament to Latif’s quality product.
“The customers just come in rushes, you would think there’s a bus outside dropping them off all at once,” joked Robert Stevens.
Those interested in placing pie orders for Christmas are encouraged the do so now and can call Latif’s at 634-5351.