by Glenn Baker
It’s been a while since the Bakels NZ Supreme Pie Awards were announced. NZBusiness spoke to the 2016 Supreme winner, Patrick Lam of Tauranga-based Patrick’s Pie Group (Gold Star Pies), to learn what impact the award has had on his business.
Patrick Lam took out the supreme award for his Bacon and Egg pie at the recent Bakels NZ Supreme Pie Awards, as well as three other awards: Gold, Bacon and Egg; Silver, Steak and Cheese and Highly Commended, Gourmet Fruit. The win makes Gold Star Pies the highest award winner in the country with a staggering 56 awards since first entering the Bakels competition in 2003.
We normally bake around 300 to 400 pies a day and since winning the Supreme Pie Award business has increased by 300 percent!
“It’s been worth the wait to receive another Supreme Pie Award,” says Patrick. “Business has been booming. We normally bake around 300 to 400 pies a day and since winning the Supreme Pie Award business has increased by 300 percent! We are selling over 1,000 pies a day and working 16-hour shifts to cope with the demand. Customers are travelling from all over to try our pies. Many of them come from Auckland and ask if I can open up a bakery there too,” he says.
Born in war-torn Cambodia, Patrick left his country aged five to live in a Vietnamese refugee camp, so he received no schooling growing up.
He worked in an Australian factory for nine years where he learnt how to speak English; then he moved to New Zealand in 1997 with his wife and baby son to begin his baking career at an Auckland lunch bar. Patrick’s family subsequently grew while in New Zealand to include another son and a daughter.
He moved his family to Rotorua to buy his own bakery some years later and has since moved to Bethlehem in Tauranga. With no formal training, Patrick has learnt his trade on the job and perfected his techniques over many years. He now owns two bakeries.
With business a real family affair, his wife and children help out after school and during the weekends.
“My Bakels rep Kevin has helped me so much,” Patrick acknowledges. “He is a qualified baker so has shown me baking techniques and challenged me to try new ideas and flavours. Without his help I wouldn’t have been able to win these awards,” says Patrick.
Early starts, long days
So what makes the baking business so attractive to Patrick?
It seems that a business where the whole family can work together is ideal for keeping overheads down and it helps with his knowledge of English. Patrick is not shy of hard work; he doesn’t mind the early starts and long days to learn and perfect his craft.
Coming from a poor background Patrick moved to New Zealand to make a positive change and strive for success – which he is certainly doing!
Another hurdle he has had to overcome is the different flavour profile that exists between Kiwi and Asian food. Asian flavours are more salty and stronger than the average New Zealand palate is used to, so Patrick has had to combine the two and find a happy medium.
“I created a lamb pie for this year’s Gourmet Meat category,” he says. “My staff and customers liked the flavour during the preliminary trials, but at the eleventh hour I decided to pull it from the entry as I felt the taste would be too strong.
“Sometimes it’s a risk you have to take, but not this time,” says Patrick.
He encourages all bakers to enter the Bakels NZ Supreme Pie Awards. It offers a benchmark for baking excellence and is an accolade for bakers to be judged by their peers, he says. He also adds that it’s ‘all in the pastry’. Pastry making can’t be rushed so bakers need to be patient to get it just right.
Bacon and Egg pies are the hardest pies to bake and hold their shape. This is due to the shrinkage factor of the pastry and the weight of the ingredients.
Obviously Patrick has perfected this technique!
Skill and support
NZ Bakels offer skill and support from their bakery advisors who are qualified bakers.
The bakery advisors pass on their knowledge, demonstrate how to make pastry, cake and bread, and discuss food trends and ideas on what is going to work well for their client’s business.
This assistance creates strong relationships between the baker and bakery advisor, which is evident when they win pie awards and thank their bakery advisor profusely.
“We see this service as adding value to both businesses – a win-win situation,” says Tony Marshall, national sales manager for NZ Bakels. “If the baker succeeds then so do we. Some bakers like to learn on the job in their own bakeries so that is what we deliver.
“Our bakery advisors are all long-serving with great attitudes, commitment, and are passionate about the baking industry.”
NZ Bakels also have three training schools in Auckland, Palmerston North and Christchurch with two full-time tutors. Currently 60 apprentice bakers are being tutored through the schools.
Held over the past 20 years as a way of giving back to the baking industry, 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 with 540 entries this year.