Hospitality Business Magazine

Judging the country’s best pie

rsz_bakelspieawardsThe hunt is on again for the country’s best pie as judged by the 20th Bakels NZ Supreme Pie Awards. This year more than 5000 pies will be entered within the 12 categories in the hope of winning the highest accolade for a baker – the NZ Bakels Supreme Pie Award.

These pie awards have been hosted by NZ Bakels for 20 years as a way of giving back to the baking industry.   NZ Bakels manufacture and distribute a wide range of bakery ingredients, some of which are tailor-made for industrial bakeries, while others are developed specifically for the craft and food service sectors. Bakels has been providing baking ingredients and technical training since 1904; when the two Bakels brothers started the business in Amsterdam. Bakels has now become a group of nearly 40 companies, manufacturing on all five continents.

The Bakels NZ Supreme Pie Awards are the biggest food awards in New Zealand and held in high esteem by bakers nationally. Award entries have been steadily growing every year.

A panel of 21 judges, including a chief judge and auditor, are enlisted with the massive task of tasting and critiquing the pie entries every year. Their day starts at 7am with a briefing to run over the strict judging criteria, the amount of pie entries and the number of categories to be judged. Judging day usually finishes around 6pm.
The judges are bakers themselves and some of them have been judging these awards since its inception 20 years ago. Over this time they have witnessed definite increases in the standard and quality of entries as the industry skills improve. The variety and imagination of entries is remarkable. There have been resurgences of old classics, mixed with innovative new flavours. Categories include steak and cheese, voted the most popular pie in NZ by Constar Blue recently, as well as mince and cheese; potato top; bacon and egg; vegetarian; gourmet meat; gourmet fruit; steak and gravy; mince and gravy; chicken and vegetable; café boutique and commercial/wholesale.

What do the judges look for when selecting winning pies? The perfect balance between filling and pastry – the wow factor when you bite into the pie. Consistency and a good colour in the baking, plus a good flake in the top pastry.

Of the 12 categories, bakers win gold, silver, bronze and highly commended, plus the overall NZ Bakels Supreme Pie Award. There are forty-nine awards presented at an event in Auckland – a highlight in the bakers’ social calendar.

The baker of the Supreme pie will take away the coveted Supreme Pie Maker trophy and $7,500 cash, while gold award winners receive $1,000 cash.

Brent Kersel, Managing Director of NZ Bakels has witnessed the quality of pie presentation and creativity build year on year since he began working on the awards 15 years ago. “In today’s competitive market bakeries strive to produce the best pie using quality cuts of meat and seasonings,” says Kersel. “The industry has changed to meet the customer requirements – lean meat cuts, reduced fat, salt and the removal of artificial colours and flavours. These are the biggest food awards in New Zealand, very prestigious and something that all bakeries and bakers aspire to win”,

Dennis Kirkpatrick of Jimmy’s Pies, Roxburgh has also witnessed major changes during his time as a judge. “Over the last 20 years the baking industry has been researching ways of reducing salts and saturated fat in pies and have been quite successful. Flaky pastry was always 75% fat to flour weight and puff pastry was 100% fat to flour weight. Nowadays with new manufacturing process and technology, fat can be as low as 25% or 20% to flour weight and have the same characteristic as flaky or puff pastry.

The influx of ethnic groups has also brought about change to the pie industry as they take up the Kiwi Dream. They have introduced their own type of tasty fillings, i.e. the curry and vegetarian lines. Chicken is more predominant meat in pies now than it used to be. Sheep meat is being used more, as beef is sacred to some groups and Halal killed meat is almost a requirement now”, says Fitzpatrick.

Not only is it an accolade to win a Bakels NZ Supreme Pie Award, bakers also experience huge lifts in sales of their pies. The day after New World Greenmeadows, Napier took out the Supreme award last year for its potato top pie, they sold 1900 pies in one afternoon and business has remained booming ever since.

The Bakels Supreme Pie Awards will be judged July 21st with winners announced July 26th.