First year apprentice comes third in Apprentice Pie Maker Award

18 Jun 2024

The mathematical symbol Pi made an impressive appearance at the Apprentice Pie Maker competition on June 12 when Benjamin Crosby of The Baker, Tirau caught the judges’ attention with his slow-cooked Angus beef pie with bacon and mushrooms topped with Pi.

The overall standard of Benjamin’s gourmet meat pie and his mince and cheese pie have earned him third place in the national competition, despite being less than a year into his apprenticeship, the NZ Certificate in Trade Baking, Pastry strand. 

Benjamin joined the bakery in March 2023 after some experience elsewhere as a barista. His employer, Shane Kearns, a Bakels NZ Supreme Pie Awards winner himself, recognised Benjamin’s potential and signed him up for an apprenticeship in November. From there he has gone from strength to strength guided by Shane’s teaching.

A young man of few words, Benjamin says, ‘it felt good and was a good result’ to come third in the competition.

Shane says: “I was absolutely thrilled for him. We received the entry form about three months ago and Benjamin came to me and said he was keen to have a go. I said, ‘righto, that’s all good.’ He’d only just started so I didn’t have great expectations but after I saw what he had made I felt really confident. I was very surprised and really confident in what he had made, very proud.”

Benjamin says it helped to learn about how to prepare and cook various types of pie filling. “I didn’t know too much about food before being in the bakery.”

Like a lot of student-teacher relationships, Benjamin is grateful for what Shane is passing on to him, while Shane sometimes wondered if the things he was teaching were sinking in. “They are! And I’m really pleased. It’s shown me that when a competition is on he really thrives and it gives him something to aim for. Day-to-day is a bit mundane, but give him a challenge and he wants to take it on,” says Shane.

A couple of days after Benjamin got his result he went to Shane and said: “I think actually I’ve got a different view on this job now.”

Benjamin says: “It’s quite interesting seeing all the process of actually making the pie. All the different steps and then turning it into something that is tasty. This competition is interesting because I haven’t had anything like it before. Not a proper competition; so I’m keen for the next time it comes up.”

NZ Bakels managing director, Brent Kersel says the standard of entries in this year’s Apprentice Pie Maker competition was almost like judging the Bakels NZ Supreme Pie Awards, and he congratulated Beau Corric (1st), Lianna MacFarlane (2nd) of U-Bake, Timaru, and Benjamin Crosby of The Baker, Tirau. 

“The competition gives the apprentices the chance to challenge themselves against their peers. It shows what they have learnt and what they can do in the bakery; they have a greater understanding. And winning a place in this competition gives them recognition and helps them go forward in their career. 

“The idea of the competition is they make the whole pie from scratch, the pastry, the filling. They have to come up with the idea of the filling. They have to make a mince and cheese pie, and a gourmet meat pie that they can make to their discretion. And it’s great to see the flare they put into some of these pies.”

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