Where Social Justice is Served With a Slice of Pie

cooking pies

Chef Maya-Camille Broussard on how her bakery, Justice of the Pies, gives back to the Chicago community

Maya-Camille Broussard is the chef behind Justice of the Pies, a Chicago bakery whose first focus isn’t pie — but justice. She founded the L3C (think of it as a bridge between a business and nonprofit) in honor of her late father, a criminal defense attorney. The bakery has partnered with amazing social justice initiatives within the community, most recently Frontline Foods, to feed frontline workers fighting Covid-19.

Broussard told Wake-Up Call more about the inspiration behind Justice of the Pies and what she’s been up to in the community.

Wake-Up Call: You created Justice of the Pies in honor of your late father, who was a criminal defense attorney. How does his legacy inspire your mission?

Maya-Camille Broussard: My Dad never rejected the “other.” He had quite a bit of genuine compassion and understanding for each client he represented. My dad either couldn’t afford a babysitter or didn’t want to bother with trying to track one down. So I often went into the police station’s interrogation rooms or meeting rooms when he met with a client. Sometimes I’d be glued to my Babysitter’s Club book and sometimes I’d eavesdrop. (Well, at least to the best of my ability. I’m hearing-impaired and my “eavesdropping” consisted of reading lips from across the room.)

Once, I “overheard” a client describe to my dad his version of the events — which may have included a fight stemming from a domestic incident. When we left the police station an hour later, I was wide-eyed and open-mouthed. I said to my father, “Dad! Oh my gosh! Are you representing him?” He calmly replied, “Yes.” “But…did you hear the things he said he did? How could you even be his lawyer? After those things, he said he did?!” He looked over at me and said, “Because everyone deserves a day in court. Everyone deserves a chance to learn from their mistakes. Everyone deserves to live.”

It is with this compassion and understanding that we seek to simply give people a chance. Our social mission work largely focuses on fighting food insecurities. We hope to give kids living in lower-income communities, affected by food apartheid, a chance to learn how to shop for healthy food options, how to get creative in the kitchen, how to garden, and complete basic kitchen tasks. These life skills are important because it gives the youths we work with a chance to truly live — with a greater understanding of how to be self-sufficient while also enjoying what they eat.

What differentiates you from other bakeries?

Our service is secondary to the pies that we sell. Formed as an L3C, our goal is to positively impact the lives of others and to be stewards for fairness and equality. We just happen to also make amazingly delicious pies.

You partner with different organizations on social justice initiatives. What have you been doing recently in this realm?

Lately, we’ve partnered with Frontline Foods in Chicago to provide meals for the frontline workers. We’ve also just recently provided 1,000 meals to residents of East Garfield Park on Chicago’s West Side. The members of this community were/are some of the most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the aftermath of the civil unrest. In handing out meals, masks, gloves, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer, it was our way of letting them know that we haven’t forgotten about them and we’re all in this together.

What type of comfort do you hope to provide to your customers right now amid Covid-19?

The one thing I’ve always loved about serving pies is seeing the reaction on people’s faces when they eat them. I especially love when people walk away while taking their first bite, stop in their tracks, and then whip their bodies around to search for me in the crowds (usually at a farmers market). Their eyes are usually saying, “Whaaaaa.” That always tickles me.

Since our farmers markets are closed/cancelled, we do miss that real-time interaction that we share with people when they take their first bite. Since we’re focusing on feeding the frontline workers, the text messages and reaction videos that the nurses and doctors send us are GOLDEN. Just to know that they are giddy and happy with the food we dropped off feels like a bit of normalcy during this odd time we’re now experiencing.

Why is pie especially comforting, vs. other baked goods?

Pies are nostalgic and timeless. Pies feel more grown-up (than, let’s say, a cupcake?) but it’s also something you grow up with. I feel that pies have a greater range for creative possibilities while baking.

When people say the word pie, they tend to draw out the vowel in an effort to illustrate their love for pies. It’s like speaking a word and drooling at the same time. I’ve never heard anyone respond to any other baked-good in this manner.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

This originally appeared on Medium.