The peach cobbler is symbolic for family, holidays, and tradition in the collective community. The recipe holds generations of tweaks in the ingredients and shared experiences in the kitchen, giving the crust its extra flavor and distinction. In most cases, family recipes stay between relatives, but for Crustees’ owner, Sharon Washington, her first slice into the pie artisanship came from a collective pool of inspiration, and she’s been cooking with a sense of unity ever since.
Peaches, sugar, cinnamon, and butter are the basic ingredients needed to make a traditional peach cobbler; the other range of elements added is what makes the soul of the pie. When the combination of ingredients coalesces, it takes on a life of its own, with the character and texture carefully curated by its maker. Washington learned part of her style of cooking from her friend’s mother, and every Sunday she would join her friend to recreate the recipes; one being the peach cobbler.
“The best way to make a pie, is not to cook it; put it in the freezer,” Washington shared, as she described her experience perfecting her cobbler. After adding her personal flare to the instruction passed down from her friend’s mother, the addiction for Washington’s pie began. Anytime someone would take a bite of her finished product, there was an immediate request for more, and followed by consistent affirmation that her edible masterpieces held value. Everyone around Washington encouraged her to start selling her pies; her cobbler often became the talk of the party.
According to Washington, the toughest food critics are usually knee-high and young, and Washington declared, “I even had little kids come up to me saying ‘this is good!’” Washington shared a story about a young boy at the farmers market, that came up to her one day and said, “My grandmother makes the best peach cobbler,” a statement Washington never debated. But then, the young boy tasted Washington’s cobbler, looked at her and said, “This is good.” And every Sunday since then, he would come to her booth looking for a slice.
Washington humbly took the compliments and considered the thought of building the Crustees brand. The one thing that she keeps well-preserved, is the right to variation. Very often, she has heard of her pies be compared to other crusted delicacies, and usually her pie would take the title as the “better pie.”
Although she takes the compliment with gratitude, she keeps the thought of the other mother’s journey; cooking and creating a dish for their loved ones. In reflection, Washington said, “… I was told for many years that my peach cobbler was ‘the best peach cobbler,’ and for me I just said, ‘well, okay… well, thank you so much, I really appreciate it,’ because I always believed, that what you interpret as the best, is what you grew up eating from your mother.”
Intrigued by another stream of income, Washington looked into the heat needed to bake a successful business. Knowing the risk of entrepreneurship, she made sure to carefully integrate the fresh endeavor, while holding on to the career she was managing before her new expedition. Washington met with another friend that owned a candy store. She helped Washington out with the information needed to start a business and by the end of January of 2014, Washington had her first account.
Initially starting out the door with a different name for her business that highlighted Washington’s ingenious creation of sweet pies and cobblers, she eventually branched out, and added a variety of savory-filled crusts to the menu. The name changed to Crustees; matching the diverse variation of the people who share the joy of eating pie. The menu includes berry, cherry, Rhubarb, sweet potato, chicken pot pie, beef, shepherd, and she also introduced gumbo and chili to the list of deliciousness that is offered.
Washington predicted that the nine-inch pies would be flying off the shelves, but the hot commodity-size on the menu are the six-inch individual portions, and unlike popular belief, the peach cobbler is not the top seller, but the chicken pot pie that sits at number one at Crustees.
In response to the fan favorite, Washington disclosed its identity, “Our chicken pot pies have white meat, and it’s a lot of meat in it; its creamy, and there’s just a few ingredients; he chicken, peas, corn, and carrots. No onions. No garlic. No celery.” Washington said. She continued, “People love our crust,” as she went on to describe all of her pies to be “flaky and crispy.”
Reminiscing on the start of the business, Washington shared a time where customers were able to sample, she said, “… and just the response from the customers, really just brought me so much joy that they really liked the pies—they really enjoyed it.”
The business endeavor started in 2014.Crustees appealed to the farmer’s market clientele, and her pies occasionally made it to the catering tables of events, hosted by Orange County Home and Garden shows. However, Washington gives the credit to her exponential growth to the times she participated in the local food extravaganza, the Taste of Soul food festival. “Honestly, after doing the Taste of Soul, the business truly took off,” said the Crustees founder.
Pinpointing the day Crustees bloomed into a lucrative business, dates back to a time of consistent physical connection in 2015. Taste of Soul, known for highlighting the joys of eating variations of culinary creations, Crustees shared a slice with the festival-goers.; it created an addiction for her pies. Washington grew into having her own brick-and-mortar to meet the demand for her sweet and savory treats, located on 4442 W. Slauson Avenue Windsor Hills, 90043.
People who needed their fix of Crustees pie, demanded to know where they could find a slice outside the seasonal time of Taste of Soul. By 2018 Crustees grew so much in support, Washington was able to open up her brick-and-mortar. As a staple in Los Angeles, one can spot Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas enjoying a slice and other stars in Hollywood, like reality star Chole Kardashian, indulging in the sweet, flaky combinations found at Crustees.
Keeping a pulse in the community, Washington never left street vendor locations. Crustees signature pies are still sold at local farmer’s markets and Washington closed with the following statement, “That’s the main thing, is that people really love the pie; I enjoyed feeding them, and enjoyed what I was feeding my family all those years—and my friends, they were always talking about it, and me actually selling it now … that’s what’s really special to me about it.” One can grab a slice through GrubHub, DoorDash, Postmates, and UberEats, or by calling 323.815.9910 for more delicious details.