Hospitality Business February 2019

Page 33

BAKING

Perserverance & Pat Lam’s Pies Made with love & top ingredients!

H

e’s now New Zealand’s worked by day at a juice company and record-holding, reigning went to migrant night classes to learn king of the pie, but English, before finally coming to New Tauranga baker Pat Lam’s Zealand in 1997. His wife, Lyn Ho, national success didn’t come easy. had been a neighbour at the refugee The humble Cambodian spent 10 camp and her family had migrated to years of his childhood in a Vietnamese New Zealand. The pair married in refugee camp, after his family was Australia before moving to this country forced to flee the Khmer Rouge where they first launched their “My ‘Killing Fields’ during the 1970’s. award-winning Gold Star Bakery childhood He doesn’t remember a lot in Rotorua in 1999, with Pat was spent being about the escape – only his producing his first Bakel’s New starved with very parents carrying him much of Zealand Supreme Pie Award the way during their 30-day little food, because for his mince and cheese pie walk to Vietnam. “It was a long in 2003. In 2007 they moved I grew up in the way and I remember seeing a to Tauranga and opened camp from 1979 few dead people on the road. I Patrick’s Pies Café was so young,” he says. and Bakery in until 1989,” Pat, now 47, his parents, two sisters and two brothers all escaped, but unfortunately his eldest sister passed away at a very young age in the refugee camp when she was given the wrong medication. A third sister was born in the camp. It’s fitting that Pat’s famous pies now feed dozens of happy fans, filling hungry tummies far and wide. “My childhood was spent being starved with very little food, because I grew up in the camp from 1979 until 1989,” says Pat. “It was very hard as a kid. We were locked in in the camp, hoping that one day the Red Cross would come and take us to a free country,” he says. “We had no schooling and food was quite limited. We had no money and relied Bethlehem. on charities like the Red Cross to give Pat has cleaned us some food.” Sometimes Pat’s uncle in up the supreme award Australia would send help in the form of six times now, going down in Bakel’s boxes of supplies, like Panadol and other New Zealand history as the most needs that they could sell to buy food. celebrated pie maker in the country, In 1989 the Australian Government winning again in 2004 and 2009, with allowed the family into Australia his creamy bacon, mushroom and where they lived with Pat’s uncle, who cheese pie. In 2010 and 2016, his bacon sponsored them. “It was so exciting and egg pie took the top award. Last to have freedom,” says Pat. With no year’s roast pork belly, mushroom and education and no English, Pat had to cheese pie also got the nod as an award learn the language the hard way. He winner. “Last time I spoke with the

people at Bakel’s they told me I had won 72 or 73 awards. I didn’t even realise that,” says Pat. “We’ve got nowhere to put them. They’re now on the floor and along the side of the wall and we’re trying to find room for them.” Pie making and cooking was definitely not in the genes for Pat. His parents sold clothing in the markets in Cambodia before they had to flee to Vietnam. Pat and Lyn came to New Zealand to start a small business in Auckland and then moved to Rotorua, before expanding into their second, and now third bakery in Tauranga. For them, making good pies was all about trial and error. “We weren’t trained. We learned from other recipes at first then evolved them into our own better pies,” says Pat. “We sometimes create something and work it out together,” he says. All their pastry is made on site and Pat says there’s no secret recipe. “We’re gentle with the pastry, giving it a good amount of resting time. Customers love our pies and the variety of flavours to choose from. Mince and cheese still seem to be the most popular,” he says. “They’re special pies because we make them with love and only use quality ingredients.” Pat’s success has not come easy. It’s involved many long hours and dedication, working seven days a week from 4am or 5am until 6pm or 7pm. “I’m so happy to see we can be so successful and all the hard work has really paid off,” he says. Pat and Lyn’s two sons – one just graduated as a pharmacist in Auckland and the other in his third year of optometry studies at the University of Auckland – still help out now and then when home. Their daughter, who is in Year 12 at Bethlehem College, also works in the family bakery during weekends and holidays. There have been many obstacles to overcome, but Pat says perseverance is the key. He now has a staff of 28 working throughout the three bakeries. n

HOSPITALITY BUSINESS - FEBRUARY 2019 33


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