The creative energy and founding force behind The Pie Plate, Ruth Anne Schriefer, grew up learning and baking traditional German-Mennonite recipes with her grandmother, who would use the palm of her hand or a coffee mug to measure ingredients. Ruth Anne would often test out what she learned in her mother’s kitchen, creating and experimenting with new recipes–using her four brothers as taste-testers who happily cleaned up afterword.
Ruth Anne’s culinary skills continued to improve throughout her teen age years, as did her love and pride for Niagara fruit while working on the family hobby fruit farm. She would often leave the orchard early to prepare supper for her family of seven; which would usually include a delicious fruit pie for dessert. When not working on the farm after school, Ruth Anne also worked as a busser at a local restaurant in nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake.
At the restaurant, Ruth Anne was instructed to tell tourist customers that the frozen Sara Lee pies she microwaved and served with ice cream were, in fact, homemade. Ruth Anne choose not to insult the intelligence of customers and spoke the truth. The response was emphatic, “But you live in the fruit belt of Canada and we have just driven through the beautiful orchards. Do you know where we can get something baked with the local fruit?”
Six years later, Ruth Anne provided the answer by baking her own pies and selling them door to door. She also persuaded the local roadside farm markets to carry fresh fruit tarts for the tour buses. It wasn’t long before Ruth Anne had orders coming in from local restaurants as well.
Later that fall she married and moved to California. Her mother phoned in the spring to tell her about the influx of phone calls from people wanting to order her pies and tarts, asking who had taken over the business. Three years later Ruth Anne and her family returned to her hometown of Virgil, having never stopped baking for her family and friends.
When a new family moved in next door, she invited them over for coffee and apple crumble pie. Serendipitously enough, it turned out that the neighbour was the new chef at a local winery restaurant. He liked her pies so much he featured them on the dessert menu as “Ruth Anne’s Home Made Niagara Fruit Pie.” This same chef was a great encouragement in making the decision to pursue the opening of The Pe Plate Bakery & Cafe.
Over the years Ruth Anne’s own five children have grown and been involved with The Pie Plate, first doing small helpful things like folding pie boxes, and eventually working as full time cooks, bakers and servers. Now these same children are the next generation, an intricate part of running and managing what their mother started.