He might be surrounded by 25,000 of them every day but Jason Danielson never tires of pies.

In fact, the head baker at award-winning Wanaka-based business Kai Pai Bakery reckons he would eat pies every day - if he could.

Kai Pai Bakery, formerly The Bakery Wholesale, won a swathe of awards at the recent Bakels Supreme Pie Awards.

It won six top 10 awards, more than any other bakery in the South Island.


And it now officially makes the best chicken, leek and bacon pie in New Zealand after collecting a gold award in that category at a function in Auckland.

It also won a silver award in the gourmet meat category for a chicken, leek, bacon and mushroom pie.

Danielson said he was thrilled with the bakery's success, as he had worked hard to get the pastry right this year and felt he had "nailed it".

But it was no time to rest on his laurels and he would soon be considering what to enter in next year's awards, he said.

Danielson has been making pies for about 25 years, having started at Sims Bakery in Ashburton.

He was one of only two recipients of a gold award in the South Island this year.

Over the past four years, he has received 15 top 10 awards, which was the most any baker has achieved in the South Island and third-equal in the country.

"These awards are always the cherry on top of all of our team's hard work and dedication," he said.


When it came to the secret of making a good pie, Danielson said he enjoyed being consistent and did not like taking shortcuts. He was always looking to improve.

After nine years in the business, Kai Pai Bakery was now one of the largest family-owned-and-operated bakeries in the South Island.

The business was owned by his brother-in-law, Ian Warner and they had gone from making 1000 hand-crafted pies a day in Queenstown in 2010, to producing 25,000 a day from premises in Wanaka and employing 45 staff. They distributed nationwide under the Kai Pai brand.

Last year, a significant investment was made to extend the factory and buy more equipment.

Warner said the bakery was now "in a very good place" to rise to "that next level" and leverage off the back of the awards to continue to grow the business.

He was thrilled with the national recognition, and it was an amazing result for a commercial pie manufacturer, which was competing with smaller boutique bakeries.

"We never envisioned this sort of growth when we first opened our doors in 2010. This comes down to our loyal customers, who vote with their dollars every day throughout the country," Warner said.

He attributed the business' success to the quality of the product and the continuous improvements that had been made, including automation, which allowed them to produce hand-crafted pies in volume.

He was often asked about doing business from Wanaka and his response was always that they chose to live there because they loved Wanaka, its community and what the area stood for.

"It costs us more but we choose to ... stay here."

When the bakery won gold for its vegetarian pie in 2016, he was working in a corporate job in a bank in Sydney.

Because of the demand that publicity of the win created, he gave up his 35-year corporate career to concentrate on the business.

He did not miss it as Kai Pai Bakery continued to go "from strength to strength" and they hung on for the ride.

Danielson had been responsible for creating the business - he worked "365 days of the year" - and would have a mattress on the pie machine if he could, Warner quipped.

"When you've got a guy that's got so much passion, it doesn't matter what it is - it means it's really hard not to support that person with their vision. I'm continuing to pump money in to basically fund Jason's vision," he said.

As for their own favourite pies, Danielson liked something a little spicy, such as steak and pepper, or minted lamb, while he preferred a Thai green chicken pie, Warner said.