People Behind the Pie…and the Camera
Beth Howard, Pie Baker, Writer, TV Producer, Host
One spring day in 2001, Beth Howard walked into Malibu Kitchen & Gourmet Country Mart, after a local newspaper reported it was popular for its pie, and tried to order a slice. Told they were “too busy to make any” she suggested they hire her to make pie for them. Asked what her qualifications were, she replied, “I’m from Iowa.” While people assume she acquired her pie baking talents from her Midwestern grandmothers, it wasn’t until the age of 17, during a bicycle trip in Washington State, that she had her first pie lesson. Caught stealing apples from the tree of a retired pastry chef, she found herself in this old man’s kitchen mixing dough by the light of a kerosene lantern and – voila! – her passion for pie was born. She spent one year at Malibu Kitchen baking pies for customers that included the who’s who of Hollywood like Barbra Streisand (lemon meringue), Dick Van Dyke (strawberry rhubarb), and Steven Spielberg (coconut cream). Her pie-making skills grew along with the volume of pies, once making over 200 pies in a day for Thanksgiving.
Beth teaches others how to bake pie, hosting parties for groups of all ages, all walks of life, in locations as far reaching as London, Switzerland, Mexico, South Africa and Japan. She writes about pie on her blog. Her memoir about her pie-life, called “Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Pie,” was released Spring 2012 in hardcover by Harlequin Nonfiction. Her next book, “Ms. American Pie: Butter Good Pie Recipes and Bold Tales from the American Gothic House,” will be published Spring 2014.
Besides being known as a Pie Evangelist, Beth is a veteran journalist. Her outdoor adventure and profile articles have appeared in Elle, Shape, Travel & Leisure, Sports Illustrated for Women, and other magazines, with assignments requiring her to sky dive, dog sled, scuba dive with sharks, and compete in the Eco-Challenge, a ten-day multi-sport wilderness race. During this period she moved to New York for a Senior Editor position with Sports Traveler, and simultaneously co-hosted “In-Line America,” an Outdoor Life Network TV series about skating, in which she appeared for two seasons.
In her earlier career as a PR executive she worked for a Hyatt mega-resort in Hawaii, where she assisted with “The Bob Hope Christmas Special,” and then for Rogers & Cowan in Los Angeles where she did the publicity launch for the original “Beverly Hills, 90210” TV series. But Beth considers her greatest PR achievement getting the New York Times to do a story on the small company she started in Nairobi, Kenya at the age of 25, importing zebra-striped tins she designed filled with roasted Kenya coffee.
In 1999, she was lured into the World Wide Web to produce websites for Internet innovator, Quokka Sports, where her projects included a mountaineering expedition to China and a round-the-world sailing race sponsored by British Telecom. It was after one too many 80-hour work weeks eating dinners out of Styrofoam containers at her desk and sleeping with a cell phone next to her pillow that she said “Goodbye, cubicle (and big paycheck). Hello, pie!”
Happy but cash poor, Beth left Malibu Kitchen in 2002 for Seattle to do another stint as a Web producer, this time for MSNBC.com’s 2002 Winter Olympics official Web site, and then for MSN.com’s Women’s Channel. This led to ongoing freelance work with Microsoft Corp., as Content Editor for Bill Gates’ annual CEO Summit.
In 2003, she embarked on her greatest adventure ever: moving to Stuttgart, Germany to get married. Beth was married to Marcus Iken for six years, living in Germany, Oregon, and Mexico for his job with Daimler, until Marcus’ sudden and unexpected death from a ruptured aorta in August 2009. Delving further into her pie endeavors to ease her grief — including judging pies at the National Pie Championships and the Iowa State Fair and developing a pie-related television series — she continues to be reminded that, yes, pie does help heal. As such, she now shares her lessons of healing with others in need, including making two trips to Newtown, Connecticut using pie to ease the grief of the community after the tragic shooting. Her efforts in Newtown were documented on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360.