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Judging of the country’s premium pie awards to take place this Thursday, July 19

 Most people when they bite into a tasty pie are intent on merely savouring the taste, whether it is a classic mince and cheese, a delectable vegetable, or a delicate smoked fish or salmon pie.

But Dennis Kirkpatrick and his trusty team of 17 professional baking judges at this week’s 2012 Bakels Supreme Pie Awards have a long list of what constitutes a good looking and tasty pie. While taste and flavour are paramount, there is much more to an award winning pie.

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?

All these and a myriad of other factors will be top of mind for Dennis and his judging team on Thursday (July 19) when they examine and evaluate more than 4,500 pies which have been entered in the Supreme Pie Awards by 444 bakeries and cafes around New Zealand, from the Far North to Bluff. It’s a mammoth day long task in what is simply the largest food contest in the country, with this year’s entry numbers the highest ever since the awards began 16 years ago.

Joining Dennis and his team at the end of the day to judge the Pie of Pies, the Supreme Pie Award, will be Celebrity Judge, Al Brown, television chef and owner of Depot restaurant in Auckland and co owner of Logan Brown restaurant in Wellington.

The pies, which are all coded for “blind judging”, will be judged in 12 categories which include 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; and commercial wholesale. A new category this year, café boutique, has been introduced to cater for the growing number of cafes serving a variety of tasty pies. The café boutique winner isn’t eligible to win the Supreme Pie Award.


Forty nine awards are up for grabs, with prizes including $7,500 cash and the coveted Supreme Piemaker Trophy, while Gold award winners receive $1000 cash.

Last year a spiced plum, port and apple pie made by Shane and Kathy Kearns of Viands Bakery, of Kihikihi near Te Awamutu, caused a frisson in the tight knit bakers’ fraternity when it carried off the title of the 2011 Bakels New Zealand Supreme Pie Awards. So the question on everyone’s lips this year is whether a sweet pie will triumph again or will the classic Kiwi favourite of savoury mince and cheese reassert itself onto the winner’s podium? Or will pie maker Pat Lam, of Gold Star Patrick’s Pies in Tauranga and Rotorua emerge again as Supreme winner? Pat has won the Supreme award four times, including twice with a creamy bacon, mushroom and cheese pie.


Dennis Kirkpatrick has involved with the Pie Awards for 14 of the 16 years they’ve been going, and has seen a massive increase in standards over this period.

“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.”


As the owner of Jimmy’s Pies in Roxburgh, Dennis is no mean pie maker himself, producing more than 20,000 pies a day.

Dennis points out that meat pies are uniquely popular to New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, and he puts their popularity down to the early pioneers of each country who used flour, animal fat and then added meat to make a portable meal or “farmer’s lunch.”


Duncan Loney, Executive Chairman of NZ Bakels and an awards judge, is not surprised about the perennial appeal of pies.

“People find pies a complete tasty meal and quite rightly regard them as quality food.”

He thinks the Pie Awards are popular because everyone has 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.”


Al Brown says he has loved pies ever since he was a kid and was treated to a pie “to top off a picnic.” Pies, he says, can be considered the real “New Zealand street food.”


The Bakels New Zealand Supreme Pie Award winners will be announced at a dinner at the Rendezvous Hotel in Auckland on Tuesday, July 24. Comedian and TV personality Dai Henwood will be MC.

Pie fast facts

  • · The meat pie can be traced back as far as 9500 BC
  • · Ancient Egyptians cooked them over hot coals and the Greeks and Romans loved them
  • · Kiwis chomp through a staggering 75 million pies a year with the New Zealand pie market worth in excess of $140 million a year
  • ·Pie mania is mainly confined to the former British “colonies”: New Zealand, Australia and South Africa when a pie was a convenient food for pioneers to carry to work while breaking in the back country

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