Lumi and her husband, Naser, aka “Nick,” have lived in Atlanta for eight years. They manage the Palms, the Country Aire restaurant and a Fast Stop gas station “on the edge of town,” as Thomas put it. Lumi and Nick are in a happily arranged marriage. Their first stop in the United States was in Seneca, Ill., where they also managed a restaurant.

Lumi Bektoshi is the new cook and piemaker at the grill. She moved to America from Albania in 1995.

And here is where my favorite travel story of the year begins: Lumi’s pies became the grill’s most popular item. So Thomas thought it would be fun to enter Lumi’s pies in a competition at this year’s Illinois State Fair.

Lumi had never heard of a state fair. She only started baking pies in April. Even so, Lumi wound up winning a first-place blue ribbon for her peach pie, a first-place blue ribbon for her apple pie and a third-place ribbon for her black raspberry.

Thomas, 55, taught Lumi, 31, how to make pies during a three-week session at the grill. He’s taught pie baking at Heartland Community College in Bloomington, since 2004.

During a counter break earlier this month Lumi explained, “We made cakes and baklavas [layered dough with walnuts and sweetened with honey] in Albania. That’s hard. I worked with flour a lot. Baklavas take a long time.”

The Palms Grill reopened in April. Since then, Lumi has mastered apple, pecan, cherry, rhubarb,

Lumi and her husband, Naser, aka “Nick,” have lived in Atlanta for eight years. They manage the Palms, the Country Aire restaurant and a Fast Stop gas station “on the edge of town,” as Thomas put it. Lumi and Nick are in a happily arranged marriage. Their first stop in the United States was in Seneca, Ill., where they also managed a restaurant.

I’ve gotten to know Thomas over the years. A while back, he let me set the 1909 Seth Thomas clock in the majestic limestone tower next to the Atlanta Public Library, near the cafe. It is one of the last hand-wound clock towers in America. I got him to share a bit of the secret of Lumi’s award-winning pies.

Source and the whole article:
http://www.suntimes.com/lifestyles/hoekstra/1956437,hoekstra-pies-atlanta-palms-grill-122709.article