Michael Kloeg is a 30-year-old baker from Masterton who won this week’s Bakel’s Supreme Pie Awards with a lamb and kumara mash pie. The father of four opened up shop in Clareville 11 months ago after working in his family’s bakery as a boy.
1. Did you always want to bake?
I went to a Christian school growing up and at 14 I was pretty much set on being a helicopter pilot. But for the last two years of my schooling, I was home-schooled with my older brother. Our school just wasn't big enough to go past that age so we did correspondence. Nah, it wasn't lonely. I had my brother. And you could get the work done in about three hours and have lots of time to do other things - fishing, diving, hunting. I worked as well - on a dairy farm and doing building work. But since we were young we'd all wanted to work with Dad overnight in the bakery. He started off paying us 20c an hour or something but as we got older it was more. When I wanted to stop school and do an apprenticeship they wouldn't let me. Said I had to go to uni. Dad said no to dairying, no to building. Then one of the bakers left and he said "hey Mike you can finish school and become a baker". I was "sweet as". Anything to get out of school.
2. Your parents were Dutch immigrants: is that where your early work ethic came from?
Yeah. The Dutch work hard so they can get out of there and then enjoy themselves. The money was good as a kid as well - we always had money to buy good tramping gear or fishing rods. We had petrol to drive around.
3. Are you driven by money now?
I'm not money orientated at all. [Wife] Rosie and I just want people to enjoy what we enjoy. The way we bake with no additives or artificial things, you have to know the science and chemistry of it. I love how bread is three things - dusty flour, sloppy water and salt and after 48 hours it's transformed into a crusty, delicious, caramelly crust with a soft airy interior. There's nothing like slicing into a loaf of bread and having it with pickles and cheese - that's the life!
Read more: Lamb cutlet and kumara mash pie named NZ's best pie
4. Is it hard feeding four kids and running a new business in the country?
It's not always easy. We went from working in Mum and Dad's bakery on the main street of Masterton to an old church in the country. It was a risk. It's not all about the business though. We don't open on a Sunday which is normally the most profitable because we believe God's given us a day off to realise life is not all about money. It's a day to appreciate what we believe he gave to us. I believe he's in control of everything. Did he give me the pie award? Yeah, he did ultimately because he's given us gifts and talents.
5. Does that kind of faith make life easier?
It's a comfort. It takes a bit of stress away. I think without it you make it harder for yourself. It doesn't mean that because you're a Christian you don't have lots of troubles or anything. It's not fatalistic. You still have to take responsibility for yourself and making things happen.
6. What would you have done if the business hadn't worked?
We said if it doesn't work, we'll try something else. I would work in forestry or anything. We'd work out a way. We don't need much to live on really. We've got an old house which is on five acres but the front door has a hole in it and the ranchslider doesn't slide. Our lounge suite is 25 years old. If I do buy something I buy quality so it will last but we are not the "keep up with the Joneses" type.
7. How did you and Rosie meet?
We met through church and school when I was about 5, started dating when she was 18 and I was 15. Got married when I was 19. Had (daughter) Charlotte when I was 20. A lot of our friends weren't married so she'd come with us when we went out, slept in other people's beds and we always had lots of people around at our place. We travelled the world when our first three were 2 and 1 and 3 months old. You just make things work if you have kids young.
8. Do you homeschool your children?
We did for a while. Gave ourselves two years to have a go. We wanted to have a closer relationship with the kids and give them a different style of education. And it was about the impacts of being out of the home for so long. Not that our home life is perfect because it's so far from it. We struggle with patience and all that. But it's things like language and respect for others, respect for their teachers. When they do fall short or slip up, are they being corrected properly?
Gallery: 2014 Supreme Pie Awards
9. Are you a strict father?
Kids need boundaries and they will push those but that doesn't mean that's right they should get away with it. For us it's being consistent. How do we discipline them? We spank them. Yes, it's not allowed these days but we have a process. If they slip up or whatever we send them to their bedroom so they can calm down and before you get angry or lash out then it's talking if you can get through to them like that or a slap on the backside. I don't know if people understand it, but it's done in love and afterwards they'll come and say sorry and give us a hug and the incident is forgiven and all finished. They'll skip out of the room. John Key has promised not to prosecute good parents [for spanking] but you never know. All I can say is it works for us.
10. What gives you joy?
Ultimately it's my relationship with God and knowing my sins are forgiven. Then it's how you live that out - my family, seeing my kids happy makes me happy, spending time as a family together. Playing rugby with my boys and netball with my daughter.
I still play rugby myself a bit and I coach my boys' teams. Seeing other kids learning new things gets me pretty excited. Then business. Winning the pie awards was a rollercoaster of emotion. You're on tenterhooks for days. There are 500 bakers around New Zealand just waiting by the phone to hear.
I've been trying to win for 15 years really, ever since I started.
11. What do you want for your children?
That they enjoy doing what they do and do it to the best of their abilities, whether that is vocational or sport or spiritual. I like to hope that we are bringing them up not to be our children but to be their own individual person.
12. Would you describe yourself as an old-fashioned kind of guy?
Being a Christian these days you're always being challenged which is good, and it's always interesting discussing with people different philosophies and ways of doing things. But you need to know what you believe in. I'm not that interested in technology and that. I like the old ways of doing things, using old techniques to make good breads, the time-honoured ways. But you modernise things as well. You keep up with what's going on.