Some dishes are so intrinsic to Thanksgiving, their absence would destroy the gluttonous harmony of the holiday. Take pie, for instance. Maybe at your annual spread the tradition is always pumpkin, or pecan, or apple—maybe it’s all three. For Christina Balzebre, owner of Levee Baking Co. in New Orleans, it’s her grandmother’s lemon icebox pie and her uncle’s gooey derby pie with walnuts and chocolate. Despite tradition, Balzebre, who’s also working with the Besh Group on the bread team at Willa Jean, consistently breaks the mold when it comes to baking. Her beautifully rendered pastries are creative platforms for sweet and savory fillings like redolent artichokes, blistered tomatoes, and plump apricots. “Pies are tied to our historical food memory from centuries ago,” she says. “They were created for utility and preservation, which turned into a kind of art form.” Balzebre believes that the labor-intensive act of pie-making is what makes the dessert so special. Though she may break with traditional ingredients, she never loses sight of Thanksgiving’s most important institution: togetherness. “When you share food you’ve labored over, you’re giving part of yourself to someone,” she says.