Gareth Stewart (centre).

There is a danger when listening to Gareth Stewart, Nourish Group’s national executive chef, talk about pies that you will end up desperately needing one yourself.

Gareth has just been announced as the 2019 Bakels NZ Supreme Pie Awards celebrity chef judge and he can’t wait to start tasting those pies. “I’m pumped; I’m really looking forward to it.”

“I love the personal touch of a pie. There are the ingredients and recipes that have been handed down for generations that people are really, really proud of. So I’m looking to taste that in the pie and also people’s providence as well.”

Many will remember Gareth from My Kitchen Rules NZ seasons 1 & 2 or maybe his time at Soul Bar & Bistro.

Today Gareth loves the diversity of the 15 restaurants he oversees at Nourish Group, among them Euro, Jervios Steak House, Crab Shack, Shed 5, Pravda Café and Grill, and Soul Bar & Bistro, now owned by the group.

Through his years as a UK-born, London- based chef he took his career heights to Claridges Hotel, Michelin-starred The Greenhouse, and Mews of Mayfair before heading to New Zealand 12 years ago with his Kiwi-born wife.

During that time, pies were never far from his thoughts. They were the food that strengthened his cultural heritage and sustained him from a young age onwards.  And he loved the regional differences in UK from the pie and mash shops of London to the Cornish pasties of the West Country.

“My heritage is I’m half Jamaican and we have a different type of pie called a patty, which is kind of a half pasty, half pie and it’s filled with spicy beef mince with Scotch bonnet chillies. From a very young age I used to eat hundreds of them. I remember going to a party and there were piles of them and I remember parking up next to a pile and working my way through them. Delicious!”

In New Zealand Gareth is serving  up gourmet pies, many feature French cooking techniques such as the duck pithivier – duck confit wrapped in a ball with savoy cabbage and then surrounded by flaky pastry, which is currently on the Euro menu.

“I’ve got an amazing recipe for a pie I used to make at Soul Bar called Steak and Bluff Oyster Pie Charles Dickens.

“You braise off the steak and that goes into the pie mould. The actual lid of the pie has a hole in it so when you bake it nothing comes up, but when the pie comes out of the oven cooked you push the oysters in. The oysters are just warmed and it’s beautiful.

“I love fish pie having grown up in Portsmouth next to the seaside, so seafood is always a big one for me.”

When it comes to judging the Bakels NZ Supreme Pie Awards Gareth says he’s looking for the flavours of New Zealand regions and the personalities behind pies from those places.

“I’m looking forward to tasting the differences and seeing some good pastry.  There is something very honest about a pie and I think that’s what I love about them. They’re very honest. There’s no bullshit behind them.”

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