Patrice Dougan is the Herald's education reporter.

Who ate all my pies? Teen's winning entry a big hit

Gemma McLeod with her vegan pie (Gemma's Gourmet Mexican Vegan Pie) which is selling out in Z petrol stations around the country. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Gemma McLeod with her vegan pie (Gemma's Gourmet Mexican Vegan Pie) which is selling out in Z petrol stations around the country. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The girl behind a vegan pie that has been flying off the racks at petrol stations across the country says she's been unable to get her hands on one herself.

Auckland teen Gemma McLeod is "pretty stoked" by the response to her Mexican vegan creation, thousands of which have been sold in just a few days from Z pie warmers up and down the country.

Some stations have even sold out since they hit the shelves on December 28, forcing the pie bakers to get a second batch in the ovens. And her family has had to fend off hungry vegans desperately trying to get their hands on the tasty snack, she said.

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• Winning pie sells in the thousands

Some stations have even sold out since they hit the shelves on December 28, forcing the pie bakers to get a second batch in the ovens. Photo / Facebook / Jordan Wyatt
Some stations have even sold out since they hit the shelves on December 28, forcing the pie bakers to get a second batch in the ovens. Photo / Facebook / Jordan Wyatt

Speaking to the Herald, Gemma said it was "great" to see how popular her take on the humble Kiwi pie had been, but she was "kind of gutted though, because I haven't been able to find one myself".

"I obviously have tasted one, when they [Z] brought them in I got to taste one, and my flatmate managed to bring one home for me, so that was nice," she said.

And while her mum has missed the phenomenon by being on holiday over Christmas, her dad has been popping down to his local Z to buy them, Gemma said.

"He's been really loving it, but apparently he's had a few vegans fight him for the last one," she laughed.

Gemma, a food blogger who posts about healthy eating and vegan food, said she was "pretty stoked about getting [veganism] into the mainstream, and people talking about it more".

She later said: "I'm pretty happy, it's pretty good for the vegan movement."

The popularity of the pies could be explained by not just the vegan community coming out in force now there's finally a tasty snack available to buy on the go, but other people who may have food allergies to dairy products or eggs, she said.

"Obviously pies do contain dairy and eggs a lot of the time, and there's so many people that can't eat that," she said.

"So even if you're not vegan it's still pretty beneficial for them."

Demand has been growing online for Z to make the pies a permanent fixture in its pie warmers, and Gemma said she thinks that would be "a smart move".

"There's no other petrol station that has anything like that, so that's a whole new market that nobody else has."

Yesterday, Z spokesman Jonathan Hill said no decision on that had yet been made.

"It has sold better than we expected. We'll see whether the kind of sales that we've seen over the first week continue, and if they do we'll have a look at it."

Gemma, who blogs under Recovering Raw, detailing her road to recovery from anorexia through healthy eating, said she entered Z's DIY Pie competition in July on a whim.

"I just saw it on the [Z web] page, and I thought, 'oh well, why not? I might as well go for it, nothing can go wrong'," she laughed.

"I didn't quite expect that outcome [winning]."

Her entry - a Mexican inspired vegan pie with a spicy tomato, sweetcorn and onion filling - beat out three other vegan entries in the top five to take home the prize of being stocked in 140 Z petrol stations around New Zealand from December 28 to January 28.

But even though she didn't expect to win, she did expect them to be popular.

"Well there are a lot of hungover vegans at this time of year, so yes, I did think that actually."

But she admits it's "kind of ironic" that it's a pie that was the culinary delight to win her such popularity, as "it's not the kind of thing that I would typically go for, and not something that I would recommend eating every day".

Any further forays into the world of vegan pies and other fare would likely be through her blog, she said.

• Find Gemma's recipes on http://www.recoveringraw.com/ or follow her on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/recoveringraw/

- NZ Herald

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