AVALON PARK — Maya-Camille Broussard wanted to roll with the popular kids growing up on the South Side. But being a member of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community, she found that trying to blend in was a waste of time.
“Who wants to be friends with the girl who has this huge hearing aid in her ear?” she said.
Broussard would eventually realize that accepting herself and embracing her individuality was the key to tapping into her talents. Combining that mission with her love for baking, she founded Justice of the Pies in 2014.
After eight years of working in kitchens like Kitchen Chicago in West Town and the Hatchery in Garfield Park, and selling desserts at the Daley Plaza Farmer’s Market, Broussard is opening a brick-and-mortar shop on the South Side. She hopes to be up and running this summer at 1500 E. 87th St.
Broussard melds “unorthodox flavor pairings” to create blue cheese praline pear pies and German chocolate bourbon pecan delights. Plenty of bakeries sell key lime pies, but Justice of the Pies strays from the ordinary with a strawberry basil key lime pie baked from scratch, Broussard said.
Justice of the Pies is a celebration of the unordinary, Broussard said.
“As a kid, I always wanted to fit in and be accepted, but I see the value in standing out,” Broussard said. “I’m not only accepted, but the work I do has become celebrated for being atypical. I think people are going to be excited to come here and find things on the menu that they’ve never tried before or can’t find anywhere else.”
Baking Pies And Fighting Food Insecurity In Honor Of A Late Father
Broussard grew up watching her late father, Stephen Broussard, whipping up hot quiches every Saturday morning, she said.
A criminal defense attorney by day and the “Pie Master” at night, Broussard’s father had a passion for anything with a crust but especially apple cranberry pies, Broussard said. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died in 2009.
Her father always cheered her on the sidelines as she chased her artistic dreams, Broussard said. For years, she worked as an elementary school art teacher. She taught lessons at the Alvin Ailey dance camp and founded the Three Peas Art Lounge, Broussard said. The latter was destroyed by a flood in 2011.
Broussard founded Justice of the Pies in her father’s memory, she said.
“I created the bakery to celebrate his love of pies, but also to honor his belief that people deserve a second chance,” Broussard said.
The journey to open the 87th Street store has been fraught with speed bumps, Broussard said.
Broussard got a $250,000 Neighborhood Opportunity Fund Grant from the city and a $400,000 grant from We Rise Together, a program created by the Chicago Community Trust in 2020, to build her dream shop.
She originally had a contract for a vacant deli in South Shore, Broussard said. A month after everything was signed and in place, the agent and owner backed out of the deal, Broussard said.
Broussard bought the Avalon Park property in April 2021, she said. The work to revamp the store was supposed to take six months, but break-ins, supply costs and construction delays pushed the timeline back more than a year, Broussard said.
“While I’m very excited to be in this space, I won’t shy away from the fact that there have been challenges at every turn,” Broussard said. “What I found is, when most people are going to the next level, usually it’s not done with ease.”
The $1.8 million, 4,000-square-foot shop will sell Broussard’s signature, unique pies, quiches and pot pies, she said. It will also include a production and teaching kitchen and outdoor dining space.
Future Firm, an architecture practice, is designing the shop “with accessibility in mind” for all customers, Broussard said.
“As a person living with a disability, I wanted to take into consideration other people visiting who are living with disabilities — whether they’re in a wheelchair or have low vision or blindness,” Broussard said. “We have taken a lot of thought and consideration for the disability community and hope they feel included when they come into this space.”
“Inevitable growing pains” didn’t stop Broussard from creating the shop she’s always wanted, she said. The old deli location might have once been the perfect place, but she now has a shop with more than double the square footage on a busy block, Broussard said.
“I walked into something better than I thought I wanted,” Broussard said. “We are in a community that doesn’t see a lot of businesses like mine, and neighbors are excited and highly anticipating our opening because they want to see something new and fresh in the Avalon Park neighborhood.”
Justice of the Pies also is a social-mission-based bakery, Broussard said.
Through the company, Broussard has donated food to the Love Fridge and provided meals for frontline workers during the pandemic, she said. Her workshop, I Knead Love, provides basic kitchen and cooking skills to children in grades 5-8, Broussard said.
With her shop set to open, Broussard has launched the Broussard Justice Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to eliminating food insecurity.
It is another nod to her late father, who grew up in a food-insecure neighborhood in a housing project on the Near West Side, she said.
Broussard’s friends are always asking her, “What more can you do?” she said.
She was a 2022 finalist for the James Beard Foundation Award. She was a chef on the Netflix series “Bake Squad.” She published a cookbook in 2022 with recipes for her specialty pies, quiches and tarts.
She even gave a 2016 Ted Talk on “finding the ingredients for your calling.”
Right now, it’s all about “putting one foot right in front of the other,” Broussard said.
“The biggest thing for me is being open to the possibilities and the opportunities that may fall in my lap,” Broussard said. “I do plan for the future, but I never share my plans.”
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