A trio of culinary pie-oneers are celebrating after scooping top honours at a prestigious national awards ceremony.
The Wheatsheaf pub, in Langham, fought off competition from more than 100 professional bakers and butchers to be named Best Overall Small Producer at the eighth annual British Pie Awards in Melton Mowbray.
Head chef Andy Saunders wowed a panel of top pie experts - including TV chef Andy Bates, food critic Charles Campion and chef Rachel Green - with his succulent steak and ale pie, which was awarded a class champion accolade.
Mr Saunders, who was also celebrating a silver award for his rabbit pie, said a commitment to using the best local ingredients was key to his success. He added: “I’m over the moon. We are a pub which just happens to make pies for our customers and we were up against established pie makers which do nothing else. To be named best producer is a real honour and validates all of the hard work we’ve been putting in.”
Landlord Mike Kilby added: “Running a successful local pub these days is no easy task but we are lucky that our customers really like what we are doing. The awards are proudly on display and we’re shouting from the rooftops that our pies are among the best in the country.”
There was also cause for celebration at Leeson Family Butchers, in High Street, Oakham, which was highly commended for its Melton Mowbray pork pie. Stephen Leeson, who set up the business 17 years ago with wife Andrea, said: “The pies I entered this year were my best ever, so I was hoping I might claim a win - but to be highly commended is still an honour.
“Melton Mowbray pork pies have always been a big seller for us - we make hundreds every week on site and at Christmas we sold 4,000 of them. People know our reputation and often travel here specifically for a pork pie. We even had a customer travel from North Yorkshire - 250-mile round trip - just to buy some.”
The Rutland Pie Company, based in Pillings Road, Oakham, was highly commended in the dessert pie class. Head pie maker Ian Curtis also won a gold award for his steak, ale and mushroom pie; silver for a cold chicken, ham and leek pie and bronze for a gluten-free steak, ale and mushroom pie.
He said: “This is only our first proper year of trading so to be recognised at the British Pie Awards is fantastic - I’m really proud.
“I was particularly pleased my gluten-free pie was recognised. It took a lot of effort to get the recipe right - using a mix of rice, tapioca and potato flours. It’s great that local pie makers are getting the recognition they deserve.”
Matthew O’Callaghan, chairman of the British Pie Awards, was full of praise for those who earn a crust producing top quality pies.
He said: “Each year we hold the awards to encourage innovation in pies and I believe we have outdone ourselves this year. I’d like to give my sincere thanks to all involved, including our judges, sponsors, volunteers and of course, all our wonderful pie makers.”