by Gay Liddington
A stint in Hampshire, England set Jamie Hodges on the pathway to pies, a journey which has rewarded him with accolades, love, a baby and Maleny!
Relative newcomer to the Hinterland, Witta resident Jamie Hodges reflects passion for community through his business, The Maleny Pie Guy. He touts local sustainability as a key component.
Jamie’s first job in 1995 was working for a bakery franchise at Noosa Junction. However, after five years baking bread and with the promise of an apprenticeship no closer he travelled to the UK.
“After five years in Scotland, I found myself in Hampshire, England where I was employed by a farm shop. That’s where my real love of food kicked in.”
Jamie paints an idyllic picture of community and sustainability. Home-grown cattle, sheep, pigs and a vegetable garden supported the farm shop along with local produce.
“A woman who worked there cooked great cakes…real home cooking. The boss then asked if I would make pies. I told her I’d only baked bread but was willing to give it a shot.
“The very first pie I made was a steak and ale pie using their own grass-fed beef and local Hampshire ale. I entered that pie in the Great Hampshire Sausage and Pie Competition in 2004 and won gold.”
Working at the farm shop cemented Jamie’s path but led him to a crossroads. The shop eventually closed and with no intention of returning to Australia, he sought work at a local pub.
“My plan was to go to Ireland but that’s when I met Olivia.
“The John O’Gaunt Inn owned by Liv’s parents is situated in Stockbridge. Olivia was studying and came home mainly on weekends to help out in the pub.
“Not long after I started there, Liv was back on holidays. One day her dad said, ‘Marry my daughter and run the pub’.
“My thought was, no…I’ve got a plan.”
A well-known quote, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry, certainly came into play for the young Aussie. Over the course of the next three months Jamie and Olivia moved in together. Her dad still offering the pub as part of the deal.
Olivia completed her studies as an Occupational Therapist and three years later in 2010 the couple settled in Australia where Jamie began selling his pies at local markets.
“After moving from state to state, we ended up in Sydney. Not big fans of city life, we were hooked when we came up to the Sunshine Coast for my sister’s birthday and visited Maleny.
“I walked into the Upfront Club and thought, this is really cool. We walked around town, liked the look of the place and picked up on that community feel.
“We went back to Sydney, were not happy with our jobs and Liv was always Googling Maleny. One day she saw a video of the Unusual Suspects playing their music in the street and that was a deal breaker. Maleny is the one place we chose to move to rather than go for work reasons.”
Jamie began as a cook at the Upfront Club and in tandem started up his food business once again.
“I was still trading under my old business name but Julie Shelton from the Real Food Festival reinforced an earlier suggestion that I create a name that included Maleny. Seeing we were committed to staying here ‘The Maleny Pie Guy’ came into being.”
The Maleny Pie Guy’s menu includes a range of pies, pasties and sausage rolls, vegetarian and gluten free offerings and of course wickedly delicious sweets. I salivate as I think of my favourite, Chocolate and Ginger Nut Slice (gluten and egg free). It’s like velvet melting in your mouth.
“The pies have evolved over the past couple of years. I use 100% grass fed Maleny Black Angus Beef and use the bones for stock, the key to a tasty pie. It is simmered overnight for full flavour.
“I make everything from scratch. Fresh vegetables, herbs, real stock and free-range ingredients. All fillings are preservative free.
“From my experience of working in bakeries, pies are made, baked, chilled then reheated. Whereas mine are made and frozen then baked onsite. Another big part of my market is that people buy them frozen, take home, ready to bake.”
When Jamie is not baking, selling, marketing and bookkeeping he shares care for his nine- month old daughter Juniper.
He says, “It’s a different full time job being a dad but I love it. Juniper is my assistant in training. She loves sausage rolls and when I make pies I’ll keep aside some gravy and mix it with her vegie puree.”
The Maleny Pie Guy’s stall is located at local markets and festivals. He’s also a weekly regular at the Artisan Market in Maple Street.
Jamie’s vision for the future includes expanding the wholesale arm of the business and exploring franchise opportunities with the ethos of local sustainability. An important part of this will be the tomato sauce fundraising venture for a local charity.
“I make my own tomato sauce and offer it to customers for a donation which goes to the Sunshine Coast Animal Refuge at Sippy Creek. To date we’ve raised over $2000.”
It seems that Jamie Hodges always had a plan. However, destiny rerouted him on several occasions.
Drawn to the hinterland, Jamie has immersed himself in the Maleny culture embracing and enhancing the grass roots spirit of a sustainable community.