Wickedly Delicious Påtisserie may be 42km east of Melbourne city, but its original product line and home-grown recipes have truly put it on the map. Australian Baking Business catches up with the force behind the specialty pie and cake shop to find out why the business has gained such a name for itself.
A meat pie dripping with steak chunks and gravy, and slathered with tomato sauce is almost as synonymous with the Australian stereotype as rubber thongs, pristine beaches and barbecues.
But one Victorian bakery is busily recreating this idea, incorporating new tastes and textures into the humble Aussie meat pie to transform it into something completely new.
Wickedly Delicious Patisserie, based out of the Mountain Grande Tea Rooms at Monbulk, Victoria, have made an art out of creating unusual pies. Best of all, they have the medals to prove it after taking out the seafood category at the recent 23rd Official Great Aussie Pie Competition.
The one-woman show behind the brand, Helena Tanasewycz, said unusual pie combinations were beginning to garner popularity across the country.
“People are a bit more conscious about eating seafood for health reasons and it’s a lighter option too, rather than the standard heavy meat pie,” Helena explained.
“I’ve noticed there are a lot of scallop pies around and things like that, so doing the whole seafood thing seems like the next step in pies really.”
After nearly three years of road-testing and improving their recipe as well as incorporating customer feedback, Helena said this year the team at Wickedly Delicious finally felt the product was ready to enter into a competition. Nonetheless, Helena never dreamed it might actually win.
“We had a lot of customer feedback saying ‘oh that’s really good,’ so I thought we might as well try our luck at the competition,” Helena said.
“You never know how you’re going to go at the competitions, and it was really funny because before we left the food show where the competition was being held we thought we’d go and see if the pies had been judged.
“They were all on a big table out the front, and even with no names on them you know which pies are yours. I was disappointed because two of our seafood pies were still sitting on the judging table, while all the other entrants only had one left up there.”
Initially, Helena thought her pie hadn’t even got past stage one. However, when checking the category winners the next day, she was ecstatic to find out Wickedly Delicious Gourmet Pies had taken out the top gong.
“I was just amazed, flabbergasted really because I didn’t think we had done well at all,” Helena exclaimed.
Despite the success of their gourmet pies, Helena says the range is not actually the sole focus of Wickedly Delicious’ products, with handmade specialty cakes and other standard bakery items also helping to fill the display cabinet each day. But regardless, it’s the shop’s pies which have undoubtedly boosted their reputation.
“We do make a lot of different pies. We’ve got about 40 different varieties and we change them around all the time so we don’t get bored. We also bring out a new product every two months because you don’t want your regular customers to get bored either,” Helena said.
“You want your customers to try different things and I must admit, our regular customers are very good at trying different food. There are some things we make and think there’s no way someone will eat that. Just because I like it doesn’t mean anyone else will like it.
“Our Moroccan lamb pie is a good example; it’s actually a really sweet meat. It’s a savoury pie but not really a normal savoury pie. Nonetheless, it’s become very popular item on the menu.”
Helena says Wickedly Delicious is rapidly gaining a reputation for their pies not only across Victoria but also interstate, and since their recent win, the shop has seen sales of the seafood pie alone increase by nearly 160 per cent.
“The pies are definitely our biggest seller, they are all made from our own recipes and anyone who wants something a bit different can come in and get a great product,” Helena said.
“We do also have people who come back each time they’re in town, who tell me I should move to South Australia or Western Australia so they can buy our pies more regularly!”
Not a bad outcome for someone who said she fell into the industry purely by chance while trying to decide what to do after high school. But the dedication and support of her first teacher helped to make up Helena’s mind and planted her feet firmly on the path to baking success.
“I was really lucky to have been trained by a Swiss-French pastry chef who was very passionate and inspiring. When you’re young you go into a job and you think ‘oh it’s just a job’, you get your pay and leave. But this teacher inspired me to think baking was not just a job, but rather had the potential to be a great career,” Helena said
“After meeting him, I realised I actually wanted to make this a career, not just a job I went home from everyday and closed the door on.”
Helena worked her way up in the industry and decided seven years ago the time had come to open her own business.
“I’ve been in the trade for 20 years now. I had spent that time working for everyone else and decided it was time to take the leap and open up my own business. It was a nerve-wracking decision but a good one,” Helena said.
Now, armed only with a small team of shop assistants to help her in the front of house of the tea rooms, Helena works solo in the kitchens often arriving at 2am to start creating her products and have the display cabinets filled by 7am.
“After that we open up for customers. I do a little bit of production during the day but I try not to do too much because the customers are here and we want to make sure everyone is served and looked after,” Helena says.
“What I really want to do next is to get the pies out there a little bit more. We get a lot of customers asking where else they can find our pies and we’ve got a couple of little wholesale places around the area but not many.
“I’d eventually like to amalgamate with a bigger company and try to get Wickedly Delicious Gourmet Pies stocked in stores around Australia, but the reality is at this point we’re just too small to do it ourselves.
“But regardless, the positives always outweigh the negatives and I get positives everyday in this job.”