Three Questions with Gareth Hughes originally appeared in the September 3, 2015 edition of our newsletter, The Raven. Read it HERE.
Men in Blazers is an operation fueled by pie and Guinness. The reason Rog shuts outs the light at the end of each television show is so he can pocket whatever part of the guest’s pie they’ve not eaten. For a snack later on. Gareth Hughes is the founder of Dub Pies, a New York City-based pie purveyor that we’ve partnered with for BlazerCon. In this issue’s Three Questions we go inside the mind of the Liverpool-born, New Zealand-raised Hughes and ask about pie’s history, its place in football culture, and how he actually gets the science inside each pie.
MiB: Give us your personal story. At what point in life did pie loom so large you knew you wanted to devote yourself to them professionally? #SubmitToPie
Hughes: As a British-born Kiwi I'm the result of two melded pie-centric cultures. The (meat aka savory) pie is king in the UK & New Zealand, so pies have always loomed large for me personally.
My New Zealand master's degree led to recruitment work in the corporate sector and a transfer to the pie-barren culture of the USA in 1996. Green card in hand I made my way from the West Coast to NYC in 2000, working odd jobs - bartending, yellow cab driving - until Sept 11. I then managed a disaster assistance center on Chambers Street for a year before the emotional burnout sent me back to New Zealand to recover. With recovery came the desire to operate my own business, so I looked for New Zealand-based ideas that might transfer well to NYC. While doing this I repeatedly heard the mantra - "do what you're passionate about."
Figuring no-one's more passionate about pies than me and believing NYC deserved pies as part of their food landscape - I did a quick crash-course in pie-making and started the business in NYC at the end of 2003.
MiB: Tell us more about the history of a pie as a food.
Hughes: Ancient Egyptians are credited with creating the first pies. Pie pastry wasn't meant to be eaten then - rather, it was a way to preserve the food inside. The ancient Greeks had pies too, as did the Romans. The Roman Empire brought pies to the UK and the British Empire took pies to the rest of the world. These early pies - particularly the British pie (forbearer of our New Zealand-style pie) - usually had meat-based fillings.
Many countries - particularly the former British Empire - have strong savory pie cultures to this day. It's always seemed odd to many expatriates that the USA doesn't have a strong savory pie tradition and it has always been part of our mission is to change that. One popular theory posits that the success and power of the sugar industry in the USA meant pies were more likely to be made as sweet not savory items - so 'pie' became synonymous with dessert. The evocation of sweetness in the mind of Americans from the very word "pie" has meant that savory pies have - until very recently - remained anathema to American food culture.
MiB: How has the rise of football impacted pie's profile and why do you believe football and pie are as inextricably connected as Hart to Hart?
Hughes: Pies and football are riding the exact same wave crashing down on American popular culture.
It's no coincidence that - as a rapidly increasing number of Americans become aware of the magic and wonder of (British) football, that a rapidly growing number of Americans are becoming conscious of the arrival of the mighty and equally wondrous (savory) pie as a food category in the USA through the valiant efforts of a growing number pie makers nationwide. These two populations are now growing at staggering speeds - but true nirvana lies within the overlap of these two new additions to American culture.
As America's love affair with football finally waxes, more and more followers of the game realize the sweet spot of football fanaticism lies within the British football tradition of eating a pie while watching the game.
It is perhaps a question for all the ages: why are pies and football so inextricably connected? Maybe it's the ease with which one can stand watching a game of footy while holding a beer (or a cup of bovril) in one hand and eating a pie from the other. Maybe it's more simple than that; we all deserve beauty in our lives - football is beautiful, pies are beautiful.
MiB: What is the little known secret to master pie baking?
Hughes: Competition is a good thing and from the bottom of our hearts we really, really want more pie makers to come and play with us here in the USA. We'll even help. Newcomers just need to ask and we'll share all sorts of information - but we aren't going to share our hard-earned pie-making secrets here, sorry.
MiB: What kind of pie sounds terrible, but is unbelievably good and should be tasted by all?
Hughes: We object to the premise of your question and we prefer to not answer hypothetical questions. No pie sounds terrible.