The Shout Magazine (New Zealand)

It’s top Pie time again says Bakels NZ!

It’s top Pie time again says Bakels NZ!

For pie makers around New Zealand autumn signals the time for selecting which pies to enter in the Bakels NZ Supreme Pie Awards. The stakes are high and many bakers say customer feedback is a major part of the decision-making process of entering.

Last year Michelle Liddell of Chill Café in Whangamata entered the Pie Awards for the first time as a way of honouring her husband who had recently passed away. He had loved the pies she made.

Little did she know that her business was about to get a huge boost. And then the phone rang…

“He said (NZ Bakels Managing Director Brent Kersel) we’d won an award but he didn’t say it was the Gold and when it came through on the computer I said, ‘guys we’ve won the gold! He must be joking. We thought this can’t be for real and we were all laughing,” says Michelle.

Michelle had won the Café Boutique category gold award. Her chicken, cranberry sauce and camembert pie named the best in New Zealand.

The Café Boutique category is designed to encourage cafés, small food outlets and restaurants to enter the Pie Awards and has special entry conditions.

“We just thought we would enter and see how we go, but we didn’t think it would win us gold, that’s for sure. The impact on the business was absolutely massive. Probably for the first four months we had people coming from the South Island, up North, just everywhere coming through town just to try the pies. There was a cruise ship that arrived in Tauranga and it was announced on the cruise ship, so they all came through town wanting the pies.  And I still have my friends in Auckland saying ‘when you come up can you bring up 20 pies,” laughs Michelle.

Her friends even tried to convince her to set up online selling, but she felt she had enough to keep up with. “We can’t do that yet with our little business, but maybe one day.”

Michelle says her biggest concern was running out of pies and letting her customers down. There was the occasional panic over having enough pastry and she needed to buy a second freezer; demand for her pies just kept growing.

“Honestly, they are still going really well; definitely a huge uplift.” Along the way she added new flavours to the pie warmer.  “And even those are going really well. People would say ‘we’ll try this one while we’re here’.”

Across the country in Silverdale, north of Auckland Wild Grain Bakery owners Buntha Meng and Ketaka Lao say sales are still high for their Potato Top category Gold pie, along with other flavours that have seen a boost as a result. “We had lots of new faces come to the bakery to try our potato top pie after the Awards night and they’ve now become regulars,” says Ketaka.

Ty Lim, owner of Orewa Bakery says after winning Gold for his mince and cheese pie, and appearing on national TV, he was so busy he had to get his family to help him keep up with demand. “People would come in and say, ‘give me one of your gold award pies from NZ Bakels,’ says Ty.”

In Tuakau at Fresh Bun Café, Srieng Choeu, and at Paetiki Bakery in Taupo Lam Ho, as well as all the other winners in the 2023 Bakels NZ Supreme Pie Awards, have a similar story.

NZ Bakels Managing Director, Brent Kersel says: “It’s fantastic visiting our award-winning bakers and seeing the difference their award or awards are making to their business. The Pie Awards are about celebrating our bakers. They work incredibly hard and we want to acknowledge that.

“And you, the pie fans of New Zealand can help. Encourage your local baker to enter the competition this year at Entries open on May 13 (and close on June 27 at 5pm), and your encouragement tells your baker that they make great pies,”  says Brent.  

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