Wilson Hailey’s hobby brings Thanksgiving cheer to Beijing
Last November, Wilson Hailey and his flatmates spent three days boiling, basting, and baking nonstop to host a Thanksgiving feast for their fifty closest friends—in Beijing, China, where Wilson moved in 2007. They coupled the ridiculous portions of Thanksgiving grub with a selection of tasty, traditional pies. “I got the idea that pies were easy to make,” Wilson says, “and Beijing didn’t have any good pie places. So I thought, why not explore the possibility of selling pies?” He never dreamed that his last-minute Thanksgiving business idea, which he called Rager Pie, might take off.
Of the sixty-plus pies he made for his feast, he took half to other Thanksgiving parties around town and informally surveyed his friends to see how well the party pies were received. Most of the pumpkin, pecan, and fruit pies he baked were from beloved Western recipes.
“I would literally show up at someone’s party with a bunch of pies, ask guests to let me film them taking a bite and going crazy, and then edit the whole thing into a Rager Pie promo party video,” says Wilson. “At that point, Rager Pie was still little more than a joke, and my focus was on other things,” he adds.
However, unbeknownst to Wilson, a writer for one of the more influential expat magazines attended one of his Thanksgiving-themed parties. Believing that Rager Pie was a legitimate start-up company, she wrote an article showcasing the party pie delivery service. Wilson remembers, “My phone started randomly ringing off the hook with orders for pies!”
Wilson embraced this unexpected demand and began delivering pies to parties around Beijing. He says, “Usually, I would get there, and people would be cliquish, wall-flowery, and unentertained. Then, I’d start making people dance and jump and go crazy while I captured everything on camera. That energy was contagious and provided something different to the party scene.” Rager Pies were more than novelty Western desserts—they were party pies!
“I had a ton of fun with this, because I was the catalyst for fun at a party,” Wilson remembers. Delivering pies has been one of his favorite pet projects. In fact, the pie deliveries might just show up again this holiday season. Wilson says, “That’s the great thing about China. Over here, the opportunities are wilder, easier to find, and all about being friends with the crazies who invest their lives in this place.”