Martin Howard has multiple identities: There’s Howard the accomplished pastry chef, and Howard the glamorous drag queen, who goes by Chocolatina, Queen of the Dessert. But you can most easily remember him as the guy (or gal, depending on whether Howard is dolled up as Chocolatina on the day you meet) who delivers incredible pies to your door as the Pie Queen.
Yes, Denver metro has a brand-new drag queen pie delivery business, and its merit goes beyond the gimmick. Howard worked as a pastry chef in New York City for decades, whipping up fantastical sweet creations at the Rainbow Room, Brasserie, and Brasserie 8½, and competing in confectionary competitions like the Food Network’s Baking Challenge series. He followed his best friend to Denver in 2017, and began baking for Epicurean Catering. But with the cancellation of so many events over the past six months, the catering business has slowed down and Howard has found himself with a lot more time for baking at home.
“My best friend had a couple of us over for dinner a month ago, and I made a raspberry rhubarb pie,” Howard says of the Pie Queen’s origins. “I put a photo of the pie on Facebook and it blew up. I was like, ‘Really? All my drag pictures and everything? And pie?’ I thought maybe I should just do pie, why mess with the fancy stuff? Right now everyone’s craving comfort foods.”
Currently, Howard bakes a dozen six-inch fruit pies at a time and delivers them mostly as himself (“Summer’s not really a good time for drag.”) to the day’s delivery area. He’s trying to take advantage of Colorado’s bounty of ripe local fruit, so look for flavors like peach blueberry, rhubarb raspberry, and black plum. In the fall, he’ll add apple and pumpkin to the roster, and he also takes requests.
Howard uses the same 3-2-1 pie crust recipe he learned at the Culinary Institute of America, tweaked slightly for maximum flavor and flakiness. “I use half shortening and half butter,” he says. “I mix it by hand, so that adds to the flakiness. I’m old school.”
To order, follow the Pie Queen on Facebook, where Howard posts the next day’s pie selection and which neighborhoods he’s heading to for delivery. Comment on the post or message the Pie Queen to secure your delivery at the designated time. Or, stop by Route 40 Cafe on Colfax Avenue, where Howard’s pies are available for pick up. (And where, pre-COVID, Chocolatina did a weekly Sunday brunch drag show, which he hopes to return to when regulations allow.)
As for combining drag with the deliveries, “I’m feeling that out,” Howard says. “Customers seem interested. I have a few singer friends who do singing telegrams who would be interested in helping out as well. I’m just feeling it out and seeing where it goes.”