Is there anything better than a big slice of beef and ale pie on a cold night? Than fish pie on a Friday? Or warm apple pie with lashings of custard?
The transition from summer to autumn also includes the foods we eat, and when the nights draw in and temperatures drop there's nothing better than a big bowl full of comfort food.
So, where should we buy our pies? Let me introduce you to Devon-based pasty and pie makers, Chunk. Based in Ottery St Mary, the company are well and truly rivaling its Cornish counterparts after wowing judges at this years Great Taste 2015 event.
Chunks kitchen produces approximately 30,000 pies and pasties a week, stocking hundreds of outlets across the UK from Harrods to small independents. With a background in catering, Simon (the founder) has a real desire to create a range of products that would challenge the stereotype of the unhealthy stodgy pie, whilst his wife Suiz runs the office and does all the quirky design and marketing stuff.
I had the opportunity to interview them a few weeks ago and learnt they like to write in caps (you can't get more enthusiastic than that!):
How did you get into the pie making business?
WE HAD SEVERAL FISH AND CHIP SHOPS (WINNERS OF NATIONAL FISH & CHIP SHOP OF THE YEAR) AND COULD NEVER FIND A DECENT PIE! WHEN WE TIRED OF FISH & CHIPS, AFTER TAKING A FAB BREAK WITH THE FAMILY TRAVELLING IN EUROPE WE RETURNED HOME AND .....CHUNK BEGAN!
Suzi, we heard Simon wooed you with a pie on your first date?
YES - HE KNEW HOW TO TREAT A GIRL!! ON THE QUAY IN KINGSBRIDGE, DEVON. WASN'T A VERY GOOD PIE THOUGH!
So, how often do you eat pies at home? (are you all pied out after looking at them all day?)
WELL.....I LOVE PIES! I CAN EASILY EAT A PIE A DAY! I THOUGHT I'D GET BORED (THEY SAY YOU DO IF YOU WORK IN A CHOCOLATE BUSINESS...) BUT NOT ME. BUT EVERYTHING IN MODERATION...I ENJOY THEM AT THE OFFICE - SO DON'T EAT THEM AT HOME VERY OFTEN. WE HAVE A SMALL OUTLET FOR OUR PIES AND PASTIES IN THE OFFICE AND MY RULE IS ANYTHING AFTER 2PM CAN HAVE MY NAME ON IT!
What product are you most proud of? (and which one is your favourite to eat?)
DEF. MOST PROUD OF OUR STEAK PASTY. IT HAS WON AWARD AFTER AWARD OVER THE PAST 9 YEARS. BEATING THE CORNISH IN 2009 WAS GREAT AND VERY NEWS WORTHY. MY UNCLE IN PERTH AUSTRAILIA EVEN GOT TO HEAR ABOUT IT! MY FAV. IS PROBABLY...STEAK & BACON PIE OR ROAST VEG PASTY...BUT THEN THE SAUSAGE ROLLS ARE EXCEPTIONAL....TOUGH CHOICE. AND - WELL THE STEAK PASTY HAS GOT TO BE UP THERE.
How do you decide upon new products (from start to finish, how long does it take you to put into production?)
NEW PRODUCTS - WELL WE ENJOY OUR FOOD AND BETWEEN MYSELF & SIMON WE GENERALLY COME UP WITH THE FLAVOURS. WE LOOK AT TRENDS AND WHAT PEOPLE ARE AFTER. NEW PRODUCTS CAN TAKE ANYTHING FROM 3-6 MONTHS TO PUT INTO PRODUCTION. SO WE ALWAYS HAVE PLENTY OF IDEAS ON THE TABLE. SOMETIMES YOU NEED TO LOOK BACK AT THE HISTORY OF FOOD AND RECREATE THE OLD FLAVOURS - SUCH AS OUR BEEF AND OYSTER PIE.
What do you think sets you apart from your competitors?
CHUNK HAS A REALLY GREAT OFFERING OF PASTRY FILLED PRODUCTS. PIES, PASTIES, PORK PIES & SAUSAGE ROLLS - ALL OF WHICH HAVE WON NATIONAL AWARDS. SOME PRODUCERS JUST OFFER PIES, SOME JUST PASTIES - WE DO THE WHOLE MENU. AND WE MANAGE TO ENSURE THEY ARE ALL TOP PRODUCTS. WE ALSO ARE SERIOUS ABOUT HAVING FUN IN THE BUSINESS - FOR BOTH OUR CUSTOMERS AND THE TEAM ( OUR HUNKS AT CHUNK!)
We've heard you've scooped up a few awards recently...
YES - A FEW! OUR TOTAL OF REGIONAL AND NATIONAL AWARDS IS NOW OVER 60 ACROSS THE WHOLE RANGE OF PRODUCTS. THE STEAK PASTY HOLDS 13 OF THESE AWARDS.
What's the one piece of advice you'd give another entrepreneur entering the food industry?
TOUGH ONE. NOT ONE PIECE OF ADVICE I CAN GIVE. EVERY PRODUCT WILL COME WITH ITS OWN CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITES. OFFERING A CHILLED PRODUCT HAS ISSUES - SO MAYBE OPT FOR AN AMBIENT ONE...?
How important is it that you source your ingredients locally? From the looks of your website you seem to have great relationships with local suppliers in Devon!
WE LIKE TO SOURCE LOCALLY AS THE INGREDIENTS ARE SO GREAT. WE HAVE A GREAT LOCAL 'SHOPPING BASKET' - WHY GO OUT OF AREA.
Why do you use free range meat in your products?
WE USE FREE RANGE WHERE WE CAN, SOMETIMES ITS NOT ALWAYS POSSIBLE TO SOURCE FREE RANGE CUTS OF MEAT, SO WE HAVE TO BE REALISTIC AND GET GREAT LOCAL MEAT FROM RESPONSIBLY SOURCED FARMS.