Adelaide’s Orange Spot Bakery has proven it’s a force to be reckoned with after claiming the Great Aussie Pastie Competition crown for the fourth year in a row. Australian Baking Business catches up with owner Nick Davey to talk about his tricks of the trade.
Tucked away in the seaside suburb of Glenelg, South Australia, is the Orange Spot Bakery. With a laid-back atmosphere and unassuming exterior it would be possible to overlook the store as being just another bakery. However, a quick glimpse into the trophy cabinet tells a very different story.
There is a lot of variety in the bakery. The cabinets are filled daily with sourdough and plain breads that sit alongside buns, cakes and savoury lines. However, it’s the pasties that have helped to put this suburban bakery on the map, with owner Nick Davey and his team taking out the Great Aussie Pastie Competition four years in a row.
Constructing an award-winning pastie in a different state to where it will be judged could never be an easy process, but it’s one Nick says they’ve got down to a fine art.
“We’ve got the tyranny of distance against us when it comes to this competition. We have to make the pastie here and then take it to the competition the day before [judging], which kind of works against you a bit,” Nick says.
“But we’ve got it down pat. We did a lot of test runs over the years where we sent pasties to friends and relatives interstate and said to them, ‘give us a report back on how it got there, how it travelled and, if you don’t mind, a temperature reading as well’. So we now know how to chill them down as much as possible without actually freezing them and try to cut it as fine as possible to get to the competition rather than letting it sit around all day.”
It’s a technique that works and, over the years, Orange Spot Bakery has taken out the top award not only for their plain pasties but also for their gourmet and vegetarian varieties as well.
Steadfastly tight-lipped about the ingredients he uses to create the award-winning products, Nick says he has a few non-negotiables when it comes to creating his pasties.
“The basic thing is the quality of the ingredients that we use. Let me put it this way; I pay more for a kilo of potatoes than you’d spend buying 5kg of potatoes in the supermarket. We search out the best of the best with regards to ingredients to go into the pasties,” Nick says.
“The judges always say when they cut into the pastie that they can’t believe the colour that is in there and the quality of the vegetables. The judge last year said in 25 years of judging he’d never seen anything like the pastry we produced, which is a real buzz. That means you’re definitely doing something right when a judge says that.”
Beyond investing in good quality ingredients, however, Nick says constant innovation is key to creating a successful product range in any bakery. And he’s a man of his word, often revisiting some of his products on a weekly basis until they’re perfected.
“I keep saying to my staff that if we entered the product that won this competition four years ago into this year’s competition, it would not get us anywhere. You can’t just sit back and rest on your laurels, you have to constantly improve on what you’re doing,” Nick says.
“We’re forever looking at how we could introduce something new, or we try to work out if there’s anything we can do better this week than we did last week. It might just be a little change, but a couple of times we’ve made massive changes that have paid off.”
Clearly passionate about what he does, Nick’s enthusiasm is contagious and his staff will often bring back goods from other bakeries for the Orange Spot Bakery team to dissect and draw inspiration from.
Likewise, customer feedback and product popularity are also instrumental in deciding what products will line the shelves day-to-day.
“I’m one of those people who go interstate and the first thing I want to do is go to a bakery just to see what’s happening,” Nick says.
“I’m not backwards in coming forwards either, so if I see something I don’t understand I’ll ask the baker or go back and buy half a dozen of the product, sit down and dissect them until I’ve worked out what they’ve done.
“That’s probably the best way to do it, to look at your product versus someone else’s and it gives you an indication about where you actually stand in the market place.”
A favourite hotspot with locals and tourists alike, the recent addition of a café component to Orange Spot Bakery has seen business boom in recent months. But as befits a beachside bakery, the days still tend to be quite relaxed with an emphasis placed on quality over quantity.
Consistently working 24-hours ahead of schedule, the shelves at Orange Spot Bakery are regularly re-stocked throughout the day, which can result in a long day but one that Nick says is rewarding nevertheless.
“I don’t like to rush my work for two reasons. The first is that I’m getting old, and the second is [I like to say] let’s do it once, but do it properly. Let’s take our time and make sure the product turns out to be the best it can be and then move on to the next one,” he says.
“I don’t want to have to re-do something because someone was like a bull at a gate and the product turns out rubbish.
“We try to make sure we stock something for everybody, and are also quite well-known in the area for our doughnuts, sourdough breads and huge range of pies.”
But it all comes back to their perfected pastie.
“People actually search us out now for our pasties; not just locals but tourists and people from interstate as well. It seems like everyone has heard about us and they’ll come in and say, ‘oh, we heard this is the best pastie in Australia’,” Nick says.
“They’ll usually buy one and walk out the door before turning around and asking for another one. And that’s the important thing – it’s one thing to win these awards but you’ve then got to reproduce that product every day of the week.
“That’s what we aim to do and that’s why we’ve been successful.”