Search is on for NZ's best pie
It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it.
The 17-strong judging team in this year's Bakels Supreme Pie Awards have the lip-smacking task on Thursday of evaluating the record 4500 pies, from 444 bakeries and cafes.
Results are to be announced at a dinner in Auckland next Tuesday, with judges aware they are being closely watched in what organisers describe as New Zealand's largest food contest.
In 2011 the judges created a stir when the supreme award went to a spiced plum, port and apple pie made by Shane and Kathy Kearns of Viands Bakery, of Kihikihi near Te Awamutu.
NZ Bakels executive chairman Duncan Loney, who is one of the judges, said everyone had an opinion about pies.
"There was a very healthy debate last year about a dessert pie winning the supreme prize. In the past there have also been debates about whether peas should go in bacon and egg pies."
Organisers said that while taste and flavour were key, a long list of requirements had to be met for a pie to be considered good looking and tasty.
"Is the pie evenly baked with golden pastry? Does the pie top fit snugly so that filling doesn't leak out? Does it have a nice bottom? Is the pastry on top layered properly? When the pie is cut open is it properly filled so there's no gap between the filling and the pastry lid? If it's a meat pie, does the meat look juicy and enticing? If it's vegetarian, is there an attractive array of red and green vegetables?"
The pies are coded for blind judging in 12 categories - mince and gravy; steak, vegetables and gravy; steak and cheese; chicken and vegetables; gourmet meat; vegetarian; bacon and egg; mince and cheese; gourmet fruit; seafood; commercial wholesale; and a new category: café boutique. The latter was introduced to cater for the growing number of cafes serving a variety of tasty pies, but the café boutique winner is not eligible to win the supreme award.
Head judge Dennis Kirkpatrick, who has been involved with the pie awards for 14 of their 16 years, said there had been a massive increase in standards during that time.
"Pies were pretty basic when I first started judging. Mutton and spuds were the big one. I think the prestige of the competition has led to a huge increase in standards of New Zealand pies."
Kirkpatrick owns Jimmy's Pies in Roxburgh, which produces more than 20,000 pies a day.
Meat pies were uniquely popular to New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, with early pioneers in each country using flour, animal fat and meat to make a portable meal or farmer's lunch, he said.
Joining the judges at the end of the day on Thursday will be restaurant owner and television chef Al Brown to help select the winner of the supreme award.
Pies could be considered the real New Zealand street food, Brown said.
Kiwis chomp through a staggering 75 million pies a year with the pie market worth more than $140 million annually.
Pie maker Pat Lam, of Gold Star Patrick's Pies in Tauranga and Rotorua, has won the supreme award four times, including twice with a creamy bacon, mushroom and cheese pie.
What do you think makes a good pie?