If there is such a thing as pie season, then it is drawing near. As the holidays arrive with the celebratory menus that surround them, Las Vegas’s indie pie princess Andrea McLean will be in very high demand. After working in some of the city’s most esteemed restaurants on the Las Vegas Strip, the owner of Pop N Pies is building a diehard local following who can’t resist her fresh fillings and golden, flaky crusts that can be found at her Downtown pop-up at Vegas Test Kitchen or made-to-order for delivery or pickup.
McLean’s career trajectory can best be described as destiny. After graduating from the culinary program at the College of Southern Nevada, she stumbled into a pastry cook position at Bouchon, Thomas Keller’s celebrated outpost at the Venetian. “I had no intention or interest in anything pastry or baking,” she says. “I told myself that it would be good to at least have some experience in pastry, and I grew to love it.” There she honed her skills before MGM Grand’s Michelin-starred French restaurant Joël Robuchon swept away to work her way up to a pastry sous chef position. McLean worked for L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon and Joël Robuchon before the pandemic brought that chapter of her life to an end.
About three months after the restaurants shut down due to COVID-19, McLean decided to pursue her dream to open a pie shop. She missed being in the kitchen and baking, so when a good friend asked her to make a pie, she was happy to oblige. That request led to more from friends and family, which snowballed into the successful Pop N Pies pop-up it is today. “Honestly, being let go from my job due to the pandemic is what pushed me and gave me the confidence to start something I never would have had time for in the past,” she says. Now, her biggest challenge is keeping up with the orders while trying to do research and development.
As a fledgling entrepreneur, the young piemaker is learning to trust her instincts as she bakes some of the tastiest treats in town. She often reminds herself that she trained under some of the best chefs, and now is the time to grow and stretch her talents. Perhaps her passion and humility make her pies so exceptional, but McLean modestly claims that the minimal use of sweeteners gives them her special touch. “I let the quality of the ingredients really shine instead of overpowering them with sugar,” she says.
Her best-selling dessert pies include blueberry crumble and peanut butter chocolate, and on the savory side, chicken pot pie is the most popular, hands down. Whole pies cost between $25 and $32, but slices at her pop-up pie shop open Thursdays through Sundays at Vegas Test Kitchen go for $4.50. She is currently brainstorming new ideas for the upcoming months, and plans to include one or two varieties “that you can’t normally find in a store.”
In the meantime, the rising pastry chef takes pride in her classic flavors. “There’s something special about preserving a dessert that has been around for decades,” McLean says. “I’m always moved when customers tell me that their grandparents have tried my pies and claim that it was the best they have had yet. That is one of the highest compliments I can get, in my opinion.”