Photo recall: Pie Hard the sequel: Return of a crusty classic

By Kathryn Powley

For 15 years Kiwis grieved for their favourite pies, but now Georgie Pie's meaty marvel is back on the menu.

Brian Popham (left) at Georgie Pie's flagship Greenlane restaurant with the store's senior restaurant manager, Peter Foster, and Progressive Enterprises' chief financial controller, John Spencer. Photo / NZ Herald. Picture Research / Emma Land
Brian Popham (left) at Georgie Pie's flagship Greenlane restaurant with the store's senior restaurant manager, Peter Foster, and Progressive Enterprises' chief financial controller, John Spencer. Photo / NZ Herald. Picture Research / Emma Land

Brian Popham is the father of Georgie Pie. In 1993, he wasn't just the fast food chain's general manager - he was the man who'd made it all happen.

In 1975, as an executive for Foodtown, he was entrusted with creating a fast-food meat pie chain. His job was to help develop the recipes, systems and manufacturing process.

"That's why I have such an intimate knowledge of the product," he says.

Now 66, he attributes Georgie Pie's popularity to the high-quality ingredients used and the pies not being "pre-baked".

"They were manufactured in a central location and flash frozen with raw pastry then delivered to the restaurants and they baked them off. They were virtually fresh-baked, which is something you can't buy today because most pies are pre-baked, put in a warmer or heated. They also had very thin pastry compared to other pies and they had a lot of meat in them."

Steak mince and cheese was the biggest seller, but there were also seafood, chicken and vegetable, pork and vegetable, Mexican and fruit pies. "My favourite was steak mince and cheese."

By 1993, Georgie Pie was such a success it announced plans to expand into 160 outlets. Then Georgie Pie was bought and sold again, and those plans never happened.

"It was a shame. At one stage, in late 1995 , we were selling a million pies a week."

In December 1998, the restaurants closed after McDonald's bought them out.

Although retired, Popham still plays a pivotal role in New Zealand's enduring passion for pastry - he is helping to bring back Georgie Pie. He has been working with McDonald's for months to make sure the pies it will sell at a few select outlets next month are the genuine items.

McDonald's is bringing back the steak mince and cheese pie for a trial from next month.

Apart from taking out one ingredient, MSG, the pies will be made using the original recipe, the flash-freeze system, and the machinery of the original Georgie Pie factory, which is now owned by Goodman Fielder.

The pies will go back on sale at the Greenlane McDonald's - where it all started.

Peter Foster, now a McDonald's franchisee in New Plymouth, has fond memories of his Greenlane Georgie Pie days.

The branch was open 24-7, had two storeys and, on weekends, there would be two birthday parties on the go from 11am to 7pm.

He says the affordable price and great taste were keys to their success then, but the brand's resurrection is down to the Kiwi love affair.

"There's a lot of loyal customers out there who weren't ready for it to go."

- Herald on Sunday

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n4 at 28 Aug 2014 10:36:01 Processing Time: 557ms