Eyes on the pies old
There’s something about a traditional country bakery that just can’t be reproduced in the city. Whether it’s the small town sense of community, the fresh country air, or just genuine products made with passion, the Old Fernvale Bakery has the secret ingredient to winning accolades in both the industry and the community.
After 33 years running the Old Fernvale Bakery, Bill and Lyn Rose know a thing or two about pies, and they’re passing that knowledge onto their staff, with one of their bakers’ creations taking home the top prize for the Best Gourmet Pie in the Great Aussie Pie competition at the Fine Foods Festival in Sydney.
Baker Brad Gordon has been at the Old Fernvale Bakery for nearly 10 years and is the mastermind behind the winning recipe—a seafood mix of Hoki fish fillets, seafood sticks, prawns, crab meat, and calamari in a creamy béchamel sauce— which he said he’s been making for a while but “tweaked” with a few improvements in the lead up to the competition.
“I couldn’t believe it when I actually won it,” he said.
“I’ve won the gold medal before, but haven’t actually been the class winner in the gourmet pie section before.”
While entries in the Great Aussie Pie competition are up against some stiff competitors, Mr Rose says the true test of a good pie is in whether ‘hard to please’ Mrs Rose gives the nod of approval.
“When we make a new pie, everybody tries it and you’ve almost got to convince everybody on staff that it’s a great pie, and if anybody rejects it you’ve got to go away and lick your wounds and start again,” he said.
“The bakers working respect that if they get a good vibe from Lyn about a product, they know that it is good, and Lyn said to me she enjoyed it (the seafood pie).
“She said, ‘look I tried it and it’s a really, really great pie’.”
Located just an hour west of Brisbane in the stunning Brisbane Valley region near Lake Wivenhoe, the Old Fernvale Bakery is a must-stop if you’re escaping the hustle and bustle of the city for the day. Since the Roses moved in, the town has grown some, but the Eyes on the pies old bakery has retained its old world charm and character that keeps people coming back.
“I think when people come to our business they’re more relaxed and walk in away from stress,” Mr Rose said.
“We’ve got an old building with lots of memorabilia, photos of yesteryear and bits and pieces of scales and horse wear, saddles, so you know, it’s got a character.
“You walk in from the big smoke and there’s just a different, more relaxed atmosphere.”
Mr Rose thinks the key to a winning pie has evolved over time, and while it was once all about the quality of the pastry, it’s now about having a great recipe for the filling, which he likes to keep an open mind about.
“One thing we’re pedantic about is that the pie we’re selling over the counter is the pie we’re going to enter in the competition,” he said.
“There’s a requirement that if you win a competition, you have to have that pie available.
“We’re always just entering the pies we’ve got available, so our gourmet pies are available all the time.”
He believes that a small town bakery like Fernvale has more licence to be creative and try new and different things with recipes —and their offering of more than 20 different pies, including a cheeseburger pie, would back this up. Inspiration for new fillings can come from anywhere, with the whole team contributing their ideas and when they take road trips, the Roses make sure they stop at every pie shop along the way to sample what’s on offer.
“We’re always ready to learn something,” Mr Rose said.
“I don’t always eat all of them but I do that just to know if someone’s got something outstanding that I don’t know about.”
Despite their extensive array of different fillings, Mr Rose said that the “common old meat pie” is still the biggest seller, with the only variation being whether they want chunky or mince.
“When a person walks through the door and says ‘can I have a pie?’ they just want a meat pie.
“If you just leave the public alone, they would choose just a meat pie most of the time.”
The main point of difference that sets Old Fernvale’s pies apart from the rest, Mr Rose said, is the quality of the ingredients they use. While some pie-makers use a soy-based protein to stretch their meat fillings further, Fernvale use only real meat in their pies.
“You can go and buy chicken pies that have no chicken in them,” he said.
“Our pies only have beef, only have chicken – we don’t have any contaminants or substitutes in any way, shape or form.”
When it comes to changing up traditional recipes with something new and exciting, the Eyes on the pies Old Fernvale Bakery doesn’t stop at pie fillings. At Easter time, alongside the traditional freshly baked fruit hot cross buns, you can also find an array of 25 different gourmet flavour hot cross buns, including lemon meringue, strawberry, and white chocolate.
Hot cross buns have been a talking point in the bakery after Mr Rose floated the idea of selling them year-round earlier this year, which is something he thinks is inevitable. Despite his confidence, the idea has been receiving very mixed reviews with a poll of customers on social media showing that up to 70 per cent would not want to have hot cross buns available all the time.
The Eyes on the pies Old Fernvale Bakery has taken home a large number of industry accolades including a total of 17 at the 2019 Great Aussie Pie Competition, but when asked whether it’s the opinion of the judges or his customers that means the most to him, Mr Rose says his customers always come first.
“Nothing pleases us more than a customer walking through the door and telling us that they really, really enjoy our products,” he said.
“That’s what I get the most reward from.”