When I show up to Kyneton’s Country Cob Bakery on a Wednesday afternoon, I expect the place to be quiet, but every single table is taken and there’s a queue for takeaway orders snaking from the register. Things have been especially busy at this Macedon Ranges business since its seafood satay pie – by owner Chan Khun – was crowned the country’s best last month by the Baking Association of Australia.
1700 entries from 350 bakeries competed for the top award. While Khun is grateful, he’s not shocked by his victory. “It’s not a surprise because it took me eight years to become pie champion. Every night when I sleep, I dream of making pies for the competition,” he tells SBS Food.
“Satay seafood is something different in the market, usually you see satay with chicken or beef, but not with seafood,” he says of his prize-winning entry. Its satay sauce is mild enough not to overpower the fish and prawns, yet still be sweet and spicy. Khun says that poaching the fish in coconut milk is key. Luckily for curious diners, the pie is also available for $6.50 in his bakery, where it can be eaten on the spot or bought as takeaway, warm or cold.
Country Cob Bakery also scored other awards at last month’s competition on the Gold Coast, including best plain mince pie (for the second year in a row), best flavoured beef pie for its curry steak version and best vegetarian pie for its cheesy veg pastry.
Chan dreams of pies
Khun grew up in Cambodia and moved to Australia in 2004. “Coming to a new country, I had to try everything. I had my first bite of a pie and it was completely different from what I ate back home,” he says.
Working as an assistant baker in Melbourne gave him the confidence to study baking at TAFE for a year, then patisserie for another year. “I had to start work at two or three o’clock in the morning and as soon as I finished at eight or nine, I’d go straight to school, to baking class. During my lunchtime, I’d go sleep in my car,” he says.
“It’s not a surprise because it took me eight years to become pie champion. Every night when I sleep, I dream of making pies for the competition.”
His hard work paid off. Soon after finishing his studies, he bought his first bakery in Melbourne, before selling it and buying Country Cob Bakery two years ago, in the small Victorian town of Kyneton.
His sister Lisa and brother Ryan work with him. And their parents sometimes drop by on the weekend to offer a hand. “You can work with your family, but you have to each have your own thing. My sister works at the front, my brother makes the cakes and slices, and I bake pies and bread,” Khun says.
And they’re already thinking about the next pie competition in Melbourne and a vanilla slice competition in Mildura. “Flavour wise, we always try to finetune,” the baker says.
His current work in progress? A fish curry pie, inspired by fish amok, a traditional Cambodian curry cooked in banana leaves. There’s more to come, he promises.
Country Cob Bakery
130-132 Mollison St, Kyneton, Victoria
Monday – Friday 6am – 4:30 pm
Saturday – Sunday 6am – 3 pm
Source: SBS Australia