Home' Greymouth Star : July 1st 2017 Contents Saturday Afternoon
Saturday, July 1, 2017 - 7
6 - Saturday, July 1, 2017
It started with a cancelled flight to Hokitika but ended in an experience of
meeting some of the most talented pie makers in the country and discovering
that where the West Coast is concerned, everybody loves a pie.
Our first stop has a rather unlikely name.
Snake Bite Brewery in Franz Josef village offers Pan-Pacific cuisine thanks to the
efforts of its multicultural chefs, bakers and part-owner Billy Whiteman, who has
travelled internationally and worked in hospitality for many years.
On his return to New Zealand, Billy saw a gap in the market for food reminiscent
of his childhood growing up in a large Maori family. While he says there are places
doing kai cuisine, he wants to get back to the basics and part of that is developing
pies filled with pipi or cockles. He is even toying with making muttonbird pies.
It is hard to believe that he is a self-taught baker, with some help from his sister
Raima. Right now the pie cabinet is set up with the top shelf reserved for Billy’s
‘experimental’ pies such as steak, blue cheese and caramelised onion, or the steak,
bacon and cheese.
Adding her pie ideas is Samorn, Billy’s Thai chief pie baker. Her pies reflect her
origins and her love of curries. Samorn’s favourite pie at present is her Panang
chicken curry one, rich in spices and coconut cream.
Billy says once they have mastered new recipes and created a pie that is “New
Zealand in a pie”.
As a young man Dicey Davidson of Stone Oven Bakery and Cafe in Hokitika
never thought of being a baker, much less baking his whole life on an oven developed
in Christchurch for commercial bakers back in the 1940s. But then a well-known
Hokitika baker named Percy Hurren gave him the chance to buy his bakery, and he
would even teach him how to bake using a stone oven.
The offer took Dicey by surprise but within a week he was starting work at 2.30am,
and he has never looked back.
Funnily enough, though, when he bought the long-established Preston’s Bakery in
the heart of Hokitika 10 years ago, with his late wife Trish, one of the things that
convinced him it was the bakery for him was the dominant stone ovens on the back
Dicey says it is a team effort making the pies. Everything is made from scratch
using good ingredients to give full flavour. They limit pie flavours to 12, including
butter chicken, roast vegetable with feta, and steak and mushroom, and rotate those
around to keep interest going.
“We use NZ Bakels pastry gems. There are options out there that are cheaper but if
you use them you just don’t get the quality, and that goes for anything in life. We can
all make pies and sell them really cheap but it just depends on what your customers
want. We were all brought up with butter and eggs and today there’s a lot of artificial
flavouring and I think people are losing the taste of true flavours, they don’t know
what they really are. Everything we make we try to do a good job of it with good
Dicey has entered the NZ Bakels Supreme Pie Awards before and will be doing
so again this year but he says competing with Asian bakers, who have really lifted
the standard of pie making, is a challenge. “They make such really good products
and they’ve lifted the baking industry up another level now. We’re all trying to chase
them to catch them.”
It is just before dawn and around the corner from Dicey’s, the Regent Theatre Cafe
is loading its pie warmer for the first customers of the day.
Originally the theatre milk bar, it became a cafe in 1937 and two years ago Gaylene
and Jesse McKenzie added their generously proportioned pies to the menu, featuring
15 flavours including lamb and kumara, lambs fry, creamy vegetable with roast
pumpkin and kumara, butter chicken and, of course, mince and cheese and steak and
cheese. The pies were so substantial that they had to invest in some smaller pie dishes
to enter the NZ Bakels Supreme Pie Awards as they would have been eliminated for
Before moving on, Gaylene taught incoming staff how to make the pies and today
pie maker Hayley Norton-Taylor is baking them; she shares the role with fellow staff
“In the summer we increase the number of pies we bake because they sell out pretty
quick so we’ll usually make eight of each flavour — 120 pies.”
Hayley says it is great having the pies sell out but they control how many they bake
to limit wastage.
In winter they reduce the number to 95 a day as tourists, in particular, are put off
the West Coast when the weather is stormy.
“Our locals come in no matter what the weather; some of them come in for a pie
every day. We get massive local support and businesses promote us through word-
of-mouth. People come in and say, ‘I’ve been to this place and they told me to come
This year they have chosen to enter their steak, bacon and cheese pie in the NZ
Bakels Supreme Pie Awards. “So we have to go on a hunt for the right pie tins,” she
laughs. “People really enjoy this pie and it doesn’t need any special treatment, it’s
really good as it is. We’re quite excited to see how that goes.”
In Greymouth, Chris and Matt Blanchfield have already been at work at
Blanchfield’s Bakery for hours but they are in good humour as they show us a
photo of Matt’s young son, Mason, chewing on a wooden spoon and holding a
rolling pin. Chris has been entering the awards for years and will be doing so again
this year, staking on the line the reputation of the bakery, believed to be the oldest
continuously operating bakery in New Zealand.
Fourth generation baker Chris (Matt is the fifth) says his great, great-granddad
and a mate bought the former Kane’s Bakery in 1892 and changed the name to
Blanchfield and Quinlan, though it had also been previously owned by a W M
Along with original equipment still used in the bakery, such as a pikelet plate for
cooking the popular tea accompaniment, many of the recipes date back to his great,
great-granddad, including a mince pie filling which is still used to make their most
popular pie. Chris’s father developed the dressed steak recipe 45 years ago where the
pie is topped with mashed potato, peas and a couple of slices of beetroot.
Chris says his great, great-granddad used to write recipes in code to prevent anyone
else poaching them, but it also made it hard for the next generations of Blanchfield
bakers to continue using them. Some they could decipher, others not.
Over the years techniques and methods of baking have changed at Blanchfield’s
Bakery but many of the products are still very traditional — the customers like
that. Chris says while they take more time to produce, he likens them to good
homebaking made from what you would have in your cupboards rather than made
with additives etc.
The pie warmers glow with golden pastry and there are a few rather trendy
sounding pies, eggs bene, for example, and pork and apple, which they brought back
to celebrate the remake of the movie Goodbye Pork Pie. On most days they will
make 30 to 100 dozen pies and offer eight to 13 flavours. Some pies they will only
make once a week and freeze down as sales of them are smaller. The pie selection
rotates on a six-month cycle.
So what will they enter in the pie awards for 2017? Maybe the 125-year-old mince
pie recipe or maybe something their new trained chef comes up with?
At Do Duck In in Greymouth, Keith and Pam Martin have been rather busy
over recent years expanding their baking empire. It started when they bought Do
Duck Cafe in Westport in 1997, and in 2000 they bought a bakery in Greymouth,
rebranding it as Do Duck In.
From there they have bought another larger bakery, set up a second bakery outlet,
redeveloped the majority of the original recipes and extended the product range. It
has not been an easy road as Keith explains they kept struggling with limited space
and at one stage had to juggle staff to fit in baking and cabinet food making.
When they arrived in Greymouth the Martins operated with six staff — today they
have 17. Back then they were selling about 150 pies a day, now on an average day
they will do 300, with 18 flavours on offer including lamb and mint, nacho, fish, and
veggie. The pies are all priced the same; steak and cheese remains their best seller,
while they also do a roaring trade in sausage rolls.
Pam says: “We make cheesy sausage rolls that are very popular. I started making
those up in Westport — we were the first on the Coast to start making them.”
Do Duck In has a strong following of local customers with an increasing number of
tourists stopping in for a meal.
“Our food goes back to the basics and reminds people of home cooking; they don’t
go away from it. We have a saying: ‘You don’t change anything if it’s not broken’
and basically that’s where we are. We do try different things but we make a point of
having a good range of core products that people like and recognise, such as apple
slice. Some bakeries or cafes you go to have lots of fancy food but they don’t stock the
basics, and we find that is what the majority of people want.”
In the near future they plan to redevelop the former St John Hall itself into a large
production bakery and build a diner on the side of it, which of course will become
Do Duck Diner.
As we arrive in Reefton, horses and riders are moving across the top of the main
street with its historic buildings, many of them wooden with verandas. You get the
feeling you have stepped back in time, even with the names on those buildings —
Reefton Coffin Co and Broadway Tearooms evoke a bygone era.
So it is not surprising to learn that Broadway Tearooms has always been a food
place and that the building it occupies dates back to 1874. Originally it was two
buildings, a restaurant and cake shop, then in the 1940s they were joined together.
Today it is owned by Ronnie Buckman and Paul Thomas, and chief baker Rebecca
(Bex) Stephen is just starting to flex her culinary skills by developing some new pie
recipes, starting with her chilli con carne filling.
She makes her pastry using pastry nuggets and cake margarine and has gradually
tweaked recipes to improve quality. Paul developed many of the original pie fillings,
such as the venison and red wine; pork, bacon and plum, and the satay chicken. The
more traditional pie recipes they use date back 50-odd years to when ‘Broadway’ pies
used to supply pies right across the South Island.
“A couple of years ago, because Paul is a bit of a rail fan, he had the idea to make
traditional railway pies. We tweaked our mince recipe a bit to create the railway pie.
Part of the idea was to support one of our heritage groups we’re both involved in,
with 10c donated for each pie sold. The square mince pies go really well, they’re our
biggest seller, closely followed by our satay chicken and steak, bacon and mushroom
pie,” says Ronnie.
Broadway Tearooms uses a base of six different fillings, with variations such as steak
and cheese, steak and pepper. In summer they sell in excess of 120 pies a day and 60-
80 during in winter.
This year Broadway Tearooms will again be entering the pie awards, choosing their
best pies on the day. So will the recipe used have a historical or modern twist? We
will have to wait and see, says Bex.
Just a few verandas away on Broadway, Chris Shelley is also baking his pies for the
day and hoping Nana Ni’s will be busy with customers wanting specific pies for their
type of work or for a particular time of day.
It may sound strange but this concept of pie-making thought up by Ngaire
Molloy, owner of Nana Ni’s, proved so popular when she started making logger’s
pies that miners wanted to know where their pies were. Before long Ngaire was
offering a delicious steak and bacon pie with a whole egg on the top; the golden egg
representing the gold they were mining. It was an instant hit.
Then there are the pies baked with breakfast in mind, and replaced as they sell.
Chris says: “We have our standard four dozen: steak, steak and cheese, mince, mince
and cheese. Then we have our extras, the miner’s pie, bacon and egg, barbecue, steak
and mushroom. And extras through the day we add in are steak and onion, steak and
chilli, satay chicken.
“Normally the bacon and egg ones are gone within the first 2-3 hours in the
morning, then we replace those with more of a lunchtime pie which is either a steak
and chilli or a satay chicken. People in the town come in first thing for their bacon
and egg pie or one of the savouries with bacon, baked beans and egg, and sometimes
they go fairly quickly in the morning. The miner’s pie fits right across the day because
of the egg in it and it’s a fairly substantial pie.”
When it comes to the pie awards, Chris is a seasoned competitor having entered
several times while part-owning Wilson’s Hotel, across the street in Reefton. This
year he has sent the entry form away for Nana Ni’s and he is excited about their
“We don’t make our own pastry because we just don’t have the space in the kitchen
so we’ll be entering the cafe-boutique category with our barbecue pie; that is
definitely our best, something a bit different,” Chris says.
This year marks the 21st birthday of the NZ Bakels
Supreme Pie Awards, New Zealand’s largest food
competition, but in all those years there has never been
a South Island supreme winner so a scout has been
randomly hunting bakeries around the Mainland in
the hope of finding a pie that could be a champion.
CYNTHIA DAY looks at what she found on the West
1. Chris Blanchfield of Blanchfield’s Bakery.
2. Rebecca Stephen from the Broadway Tearooms.
3. Chris Shelley from Nana Ni’s, Reefton.
4. Billy Whiteman from the Snake Bite in Franz
Josef Glacier, with Samorn.
5. Hayley Norton-Taylor from the Regent Theatre
Cafe in Hokitika.
6. Keith Martin of Do Duck In, Greymouth.
PICTURE: Janna Sherman
Dicey Davidson works with the stone oven at his Hokitika bakery.
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