Pie – British Pie Awards 2014

I spent the day in Melton Mowbray at St Mary’s Church as one of over 100 judges at the sixth annual British Pie Awards. The awards are organised by the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association and in 2014 over 800 pies were assessed by 100 judges. The awards celebrate the heritage of the British pie
 and protect and promote regional specialities

The event recognises the craft of bakers, butchers and other producers as well as promoting and
 supporting British produce. Rev. Kevin Ashby allows St Mary’s to be transformed into a palace for pies for three days. The pews are replaced with long tables. A bank of ovens are installed the down the length of the nave which is festooned with bunting. The Rev., as well as blessing the pies – is also a judge.

Bakers of all scales send in their pies – which range from the magnificent to the everyday. Pies you’d find on the football terraces, that you’d buy in your supermarket or from specialist small producers. The categories include Beef & Ale, Fish, Chicken, Vegetarian, Bramley Apple, Steak & Kidney, and Melton Mowbray Pork Pie.

The number of entries in each category varies – from say 12 in Bramley Apple to 117 in ‘Beef and any other flavour’. However – no, you don’t have to eat all of the pies. Judges are allocated to a team, and the team, led by a leader, is responsible for assessing one category or class. So a class with 75 pies will have about 10 judges who work in pairs, each pair being responsible for assessing about 15 pies. Once all the pies in the class have been assessed all 10 judges get together, put forward their top scoring pie, and the whole team discuss and decide first, second and third across the class. Each Pie is judged on 6 criteria – Appearance, Baking, Pastry Thickness, Pastry Texture & Taste, Filling, Filling Texture & Taste. It’s a well thought through methodology and concentrates the mind.

Founders Matthew O’Callaghan (Chairman of the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association, and famously vegetarian) and Stephen Hallam (of Dickinson & Morris Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe fame) have created an event that inspires more people each year. The judges are drawn from a wide spectrum – range from chefs, bloggers, bakers, people involved in hospitality, food writers, food producers, critics and the Melton Mowbray Town Mayor. Charles Campion and Rachel Green were amongst the roll call this year.

Having been a judge for ‘Beef and any other flavour’ last year, it was interesting to be allocated to Class 10 – Other Meat Pie this, which included duck, squirrel, venison, rabbit and veal among other meat and flavour combinations. While the judging is taking place volunteers from Brooksby and Loughborough Colleges cook the pies then take them to the tables, radio and television interviews are taking place and there’s lots of concentrated discussion happening at the tables. Click here to hear myself, fellow judge Neil Woods and others talking to Jo Hollis from BBC Radio Leicester.

At the end of the event the award contenders in all the categories get a call and are invited to the Awards Lunch the following day where the winners are announced.

Taking part has certainly made me a far more discerning consumer – check out the website and search out the best, after all that tasting I can tell you –  it’s worth it.

The winners for 2014 are just being announced – and the one for Class 10 – Other Meat Pie – is Brocklebys Wild Deer Pie. They’re just down the road from me so I’ll certainly be popping along there soon.

Web – www.britishpieawards.co.uk

Twitter – @BritishPies