Life of Pie is just champion at Bodnant Welsh Food

Butchers and bakers at a centre of excellence for Welsh food are celebrating after being voted Welsh champion pie-makers and winning a total of 15 major awards.

The team at Bodnant Welsh Food, in the Conwy Valley, beat 270 other contestants from around Wales to be named Welsh Champions in the Hot Eating Pie category.

Judges gave 99 out of a possible 100 to their Stilton and Steak Pie and their Pork Pie.

Headed up by Bodnant’s latest recruit, master butcher Tony Gibson, the team  also picked up a further 13 awards.

They also included Gold Awards for the Bodnant Lamb Cushions, Steak Melt Burgers, Pork and Pear Burgers, Chilli Bomb, Huntsman’s Pie and Pork, Wholegrain Mustard and Black Pudding Pie.

In addition, they won Silver Awards for the Bodnant Traditional Pork Sausage and the Lamb and Mint Burger.

If that wasn’t enough, the team also took Bronze Awards for the Bodnant Pork, Aberwen and Apricot Sausage and the latest addition to the sausage range – the Bodnant PLG Sausage.

Chris Morton, Managing Director of Bodnant Welsh Foods, said: “We were hoping to do reasonably well in the awards, though we knew the other competitors were of a  very high standard, and included some of the top names in Wales for pie-making, baking and butchery skills.

“So I was stunned but absolutely delighted when I realised that we had won a total of 15 awards – including two Welsh Champions. I am so proud of our butchers and bakers. We know they are very skilled and create great food – but it was a pleasure for the panel of judges to agree with us.”

However, Bodnant’s resident pie-man Peter Jones, who cooked up the winning creations, had to wait the good news from his colleagues – for he was fast asleep in bed when the Welsh Awards for Excellence in Meat Products were being handed out at Kinmel Hall, near Abergele.

The 45-year-old, who already has more than 50 Welsh, British and European titles to his name, starts his shift at midnight, cooking up 400 pies through the night, so they are oven fresh for customers.

When Bodnant’s shop opens for that day’s business, he’s usually heading back to his home in Conwy to spend time with his four-year-old daughter Sophie and his partner, a nurse.

But when it came to making the entries for the contest, he started his shift two hours early, and worked through the night to ensure the batch was perfect. The winning pies came out of the oven at Bodnant at 6am –and  less than12 hours later were being sampled by the panel of judges.

“Usually I like to make the pies the day before but this time it wasn’t possible,” said Pete.

“Stilton and Steak Pie is one of my favourites, I think it tastes so good because it marries a lovely cheese, which we sell in the shop, with great meat, such as the Welsh Black Beef from the butchery counter. Stewing steak is excellent value as it’s the trimmings from prime cuts of meat.

“I first started winning awards with this recipe in 1999, and since then I’ve won all sorts of awards. I joined Bodnant 18 months ago – on 12 October 2012, a good date to remember – and I decided to go back to a recipe I knew would work.”

Pete, who has been making pies since he started work after leaving Ysgol Aberconwy, Llandudno aged 16,  uses a mix of lard and vegetables shortening in his pastry mix, along with strong flours – and there’s not a soggy bottom in sight.

“I make six different types of pastry for my pies, plus a hot water paste for the raised pork pies, it’s important to get the pastry just right as well as the seasoning,” confided Pete.

He’s now setting his sights on picking up even more titles for Bodnant and aims to enter British and European contests. He’s is full of praise for Bodnant’s butchers and  bakery teams –  his fellow bakers are Jack Tarbuck and new recruit Andy Kelly plus pastry expert Daisy Hewitt.

“Bodnant are great, they just let us get on with making our breads, cakes and pies, and we enjoy working together even if the hours are bit unsociable – you get used to it after a while,” said Pete, who admits he also turns his hand to making bread and pastries.”


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