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Emily Lucas Founder of The West Coast Pie Company. Bakers of the Better Pie ™
TAKING A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE
Sometimes you have to let a nagging idea speak its truth, no matter what. And that’s exactly how the story of the West Coast Pie Co. begins. Emily Lucas, founder and pie auteur began her culinary journey first managing the front of house hustle. Never one to slow down, her love of hospitality eventually saw her migrate to the kitchen as the head chef and owner of the now legendary Bayhouse Restaurant in Tauranga Bay.
It was during that time in the mid 2000s, when boxes of meat and fish would arrive at the restaurant, that Emily started to question the sustainable nature of the food industry in New Zealand. Where was all this produce coming from? How do food companies keep up with growing demand for meat, dairy and fish across all kiwi eateries?
These questions were regularly front of mind, and motivated her to explore sustainable protein and produce options for her restaurant.
A dash of fate, determination and general curiosity led her to discover Premium Game, a then small company formed by a group of hunters in Blenheim, offering meat sourced from the wild. With that connection in play, Emily began serving up wild meat at the restaurant, thus covering two crucial bases in line with her values: first, cooking with wild meat was a more transparent and sustainable option; second, wild meat was a massive hit with the locals and visitors to the restaurant. Moreover, going wild was down to the ground far more characteristic of the untamed natural wilderness of the West Coast.
A pivotal moment for Emily came when a food writer from The Press praised their dinner at The Bay House, writing that in the past if you wanted a three course meal in Westport ‘you ordered a pie and two beers’. This sparked an idea in Emily’s mind, that the humble, iconic meat pie was an approachable way to introduce the flavours of the wild to a mainstream market as an alternative choice for meat consumption.
The concept resonated with her enough that she developed her signature venison steak pie to feature on the restaurant’s menu, creating the foundation for what would later become the West Coast Pie Company.
Emily launched the West Coast Pie Co. post covid in 2020 first as an e-commerce store, offering wild meat pies baked to order filled with quality everyday ingredients wrapped in buttery handmade pastry. The pies quickly gained a loyal following with customers appreciating the brand’s ethos of promoting wild meat for its superior flavour, nutritional and environmental benefits. But more importantly, a good old-fashioned kiwi staple had found a way to show its fans a more sustainable way to go.
In May 2022, only two years after launching the business, the West Coast Pie Company was making enough dough to open a brick-and-mortar bakery in Palmerston Street, Westport. The move saw an enormous amount of success within its first year and today you will see line ups outside the door and culinary wanderers making a special stop in the Westport township to sample the delicacy.
It’s no small feat that Emily’s story serves up an inspiring example of how a morsel of an idea – backed by a big dose of passion and commitment – can end up changing the landscape and destiny for the humble meat pie (and in turn the future of West Coast cuisine). Wild meat is definitely the better way to go, and through the West Coast Pie Company, Emily continues to challenge preconceptions surrounding wild meat while contributing to a more sustainable future for the food industry New Zealand.