Pat Lam is the pie man… and he's got the awards to prove it.

The Tauranga baker recently won his sixth "pie of the year" award making him the most awarded competitor in the event's 22 year history.

His roast pork and creamy mushroom pie won gold in the gourmet meat category and, ultimately, the 2018 Bakels New Zealand Supreme Pie Award.

So what's his secret ingredient?

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"There's no secret," Lam said. "The secret is that you make it right."

Lam's life was once very different.

"We started from zero, we had nothing. We didn't have one dollar, one cent. We worked hard."

Lam is just one of many refugees in New Zealand.

He was forced to flee Cambodia with his family when he was five-years-old and lived in a refugee camp in Vietnam until the age of 19.

"They lock you up in a camp and you can't do much. There's no school. There's nothing you can do.

"You just wait for international Red Cross that will allow you to go overseas and start your new life."

At 15, Lam watched his older sister die after she was given the wrong injection to cure a cold.

"[At that time] we don't have doctors, we don't have good medical conditions. Yeah, it was just so sad for us."

In 1989, Lam and his family-of-six fled to Sydney. Eight years later, they moved to Auckland and Lam started his own lunch bar in Avondale.

And that's when his love of pies was born. He now has bakeries in Tauranga and Rotorua, his traumatic past a distant memory.

"Not many people know I'm a refugee. We have done so good, we are so successful with our business. As a refugee coming to a new country, we contribute a lot.

"Today, we are so proud and so happy for what we have done over the years. We're so happy."

Lam and his wife Lay Phan Ho met as teenagers both living in a refugee camp. They now have three children - two at University and 15-year-old Jessica, who works part-time at his pie-shop as the barista.

"I'm so lucky after what he's been through and I think it's amazing he's come so far," Jessica said.

"Everything we have is because of him - being able to go to a good school, have a home. He didn't have any of this.

"It's because of my Mum and Dad's sacrifice in Vietnam and all the work they have done to get where we are now.

"It's cliche but my Dad is my hero."

A hero in the eyes of many, but not to himself.

"[I'm a] hard worker, not that clever but [I] try to create something new all the time.

"I'm a refugee and I make the best pies in the country."

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