By Jana Carver

GTCC culinary instructor L J Rush prepping in the kitchen.

GTCC culinary instructor L J Rush prepping in the kitchen.

As the holiday season approaches, Guilford Technical Community College’s Culinary Arts program is helping to spread holiday cheer with their annual Thanksgiving Pie sale fundraiser.

This year, Culinary Arts instructor Michele Prairie is running the show and said it is the biggest fundraiser their department holds.

“It’s a lot of pies. It’s a lot of work,” said Prairie, who has worked at GTCC for 14 years. “But the least we’ve sold is 450 to 460 pies, and we’ve sold as many as 750 pies, so it’s a great fundraiser for us.”

Proceeds from all pie sales help the GTCC Culinary Arts and Hospitality Club send students to participate in competitions such as SkillsUSA. But beyond the financial support, the pie sale also helps students gain valuable experience and hone their craft.

“Most people have only ever seen two or three pies made at a time,” Prairie said. “They’ve never seen 300 pecan pies made at one time and what goes into that.”

Of the three pies they make each year—pecan, apple and pumpkin—pecan pies are the most popular. In fact, last year Prairie said they had to purchase close to 80 pounds of pecans. It’s that level of production that the student gains the most from.  

“Production is huge because it helps increase your skills. Because most of them have never seen mass production, it is eye-opening for them to see,” she said.  “Students who help usually have a really good time doing it. They feel like they’ve learned some stuff, and they have.”

Prairie said a fundraiser like this takes a lot of planning, but she already has a plan of action.

Apple pies in production.

Apple pies in production.

“We’re going to do some of the stuff that will hold the Friday before, like the streusel topping and the apple pie filling,” she said. “On Monday, we’ll actually get into mixing the ingredients and baking some of them. Then, Tuesday, we’ll finish the rest and people will start picking them up at noon.”

Prairie also said they will have ingredients measured out beforehand because organization is a crucial component to this pie operation.

“Everybody is busy with projects, classes, family life, holidays—all of that stuff.  So we want to make it a positive learning experience for the students, but we also don’t want to waste their time,” she explained. “We want to get them in, get stuff done, and then get them out of here so they can go about doing what they need to do for their normal life.”

When it all comes down to it, Prairie said each pie is made with pride and love, and the fundraiser’s success is measured not only by how many pies are sold, but what is learned along the way.

“We are grateful. We appreciate all of the support from the past years, and we hope that people will continue to support this cause to help the students be able to compete nationally and locally in this business and learn more,” she said.

To place an order, visit All pies are $9 each. The deadline to submit an order is 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16.

Published Nov. 14, 2016