Pop up pie help (guest post)

gratuitous plug for my blog :0

Those of you who have been following the story so far closely will know that:

1. Sarah is pretty good at getting pop-up pie assistants to help her with events. Sometimes they only make a brief appearance, sometimes they are on hand all day. Its been a popular move and the roll call is impressive…

2. Sarah and the pie team at Brays Cottage won a bursary to be part of the Producers Village at the upcoming BBC Good Food Show Winter at the NEC, next week.

3. I’m pop up pie assisting….

Yikes its NEXT WEEK!!

It’s all in hand though….Sarah’s been ordering lots of exciting livery for the stand and frantically crimping pies with the rest of the pie elves whilst I’ve been filling in lots of bureaucratic forms to get entry passes, to be allowed in with the delivery van, to be allowed to provide samples, to be allowed to sell pies, to get H&S clearance…… All those details that you have to get right before you can be allowed in the doors and on to the stand to meet the punters.

And because the ‘perfect pork pie’ needs to have a perfectly beautifully dressed crew, as well as the regular (and exceptionally smart) green BrayCo aprons, the team will be sporting branded T shirts specially produced in a short run quantity to our specific requirements by an artisan production team in East London (aka me).


picture by goodshoeday

Neat huh (notice the logo on the arm)?

Oh and just to give things a little extra pizzazz on the day’s I’m pie assisting (Thursday and Friday) I’ll be sporting a hat, a pork pie hat of course:

self portrait in a pork pie hat

So come along say hi and erm buy a pie (or several)…

PS: don’t forget you’ve until midnight 19 November to enter my competition to win entry tickets, free pies and a special exclusive ‘with knife and fork’ gift, click here to enter.

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Pies and weddings

As a little light relief from the preparation for Birmingham and at the risk of adding to your already full agenda of aristo nuptial related information, we hear there’s a Royal Wedding in the offing, featuring a local lad. News came through on Twitter last night that Clarissa Dickinson-Wright on BBC’s The One Show suggested a pork pie wedding cake. Fine woman that she is.

We can do that! We think it would be a nice familiar touch of Norfolk for the proceedings.

Our version is to be featured in next June’s Country Living too. I feel a zeitgeist coming on…

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8 Days…

A gratuitous pie photo!

The start of the week has been mostly about sorting out the artwork for the banners for Good Food Show pie stall. My current banner is looking a bit tired after a couple of year’s work so over the weekend I roughed out a spec of what I wanted on them so they’d be ready to send over to Pete, our graphic designer friend. The general consensus is that the banners need to be a bit less subtle than I’d use for Norfolk events. the words Pork and Pies will feature quite large! Plus some quotes and famous names who’ve been nice about the pies over the past few years. All terribly tastefully done, mind. Just less understated than our normal style.


The car has been in the garage in the next village to make sure that’s in good form for the trip over to Brum, we’ve already had some work done on our elderly but much loved chiller van (The Hippo) so she’s happy for her journies back and forth.

By our standards, there’s a lot of investment, involving real cash, in preparing properly for a show that’s this big. If we hadn’t won the BBC Good Food Show small producers bursary and were able to have the stand for free, then it probably isn’t anything we’d have risked trying, I’m very grateful for having had that shove though.

And whilst busily sorting out Good Food Show things, the normal stuff of pie-life goes on, Fi, my invaluable right hand woman, has been busily baking pies at our HQ bakery and delivering them to our local shops. I’ve also been dealing with emails from our local paper, the EDP, who are featuring our pork pies, alongside our friends The Wholesome Grocer, in their Christmas gift guide.

And today, Tuesday, is our final big pie-making push before Birmingham. Pie making Tuesday is always fun but hard work. Because of where we are, I provide a working lunch, I’ve got to nip in to our good friends and local Butchers, Rutland (five times winner of Norfolk butcher of the year including 2010), to pick up a delivery of chilli  jam that bizarrely went to them instead of HQ, so it’s going to be very fine bacon sandwiches for lunch today. And possibly a few pies…

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The plan comes together

It seems that every time I speak to someone about the BBC Good Food Show, my estimate of how many pies we’ll need goes up. When I registered on their website for the first time and created my producer profile I saw the statistic that there will be something like 90,000 people (presumably mostly people who like food) at the show. Ninety thousand. Nine zero zero zero and another zero.

Not all of those will want to buy a pork pie, but a few will. But how many is a few? 1%? 5%? Lots of friends are coming, but even with the press we’ve had over the years, most of the people visiting the NEC won’t have heard of us, so it won’t be like it is in Norfolk where people make a beeline for us. And there are hundreds of stalls for them to spend their money at. But on the other hand the pies do look quite inviting on the stall, even if I say it myself.

So I’m going to have new banners for the walls of our stall and get lots of snazzy flyers printed and hopefully people will be able to see what we are about at a glance and be tempted.

The hotel is booked for me and my helpers and our pie plans at this end are coming together, thanks to huge help from the rest of the pie team and our new pie-elf Shauna (@shaunamarshall on Twitter). Shauna is heading fast toward her first baby and had reduced her work hours but has spent Tuesdays crimping alongside the rest of us and been amazing.  And during the big week itself our twitter chum/customer/pop-up piestall assistant Dean has offered to come and work with us at HQ.   Dean is just the sort of chap to have around, sensible, strong and cheery – and a trained barrista!

Meanwhile, at Birmingham more Twitter friends have offered to be with me (keeping me sane!) on the piestall, Claire, who is famous for her delicious Breckland Orchard drinks and Foodie blogger Linda – who has even set up a pie & tickets competition for the Good Food Show on her blog – it’s a great competition, closes Friday 19th November, so why not enter, treat yourself to a great foodie day out and come and say hi to us and eat a fine pork pie.

Then at the weekend my other half, veteran of many a busy Norfolk summer pie-stall event will be with us too, wielding the pie tongs expertly and charming the customers.

Small businesses aren’t just about business, they are about friends and the community round about them, without being too soppy, I get perfectly amazing help and support every day from our network – life wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without you all.

Anyway, loads to do next week before we climb in the van and head to Birmingham, but I feel like it’s all coming together and we should be able to hold our head high and represent Norfolk and the pies well.

Still – 90,000 people – oh my!


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Away with the fairies

Bray’s Cottage did Halloween properly this year. We’ve been long-time chums with The Fairyland Trust who run magical events where children can run free and experience nature in a safe environment and, almost without knowing it, learn about ecology and the natural world. All the Fairyland Trust events are hugely popular in Norfolk and Real Halloween was sold out. So we picked hips and haws to decorate the stall with and prepared to join in.

Real Halloween was the first time we’ve taken the pie stall to a Fairyland Trust event, and their plan is to encourage more local food producers along. We just

...as the crow flies, Fairyland's Stinking Jim

enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere and strangeness of it all. There were Potions and Witches Pets workshops, pumpkin carving, Halloween Olympics (including broomstick javelin, swede tossing and apple bobbing) and a grand finale lamplit procession through

the woods. It was all held in the beautiful ancient grounds of Holt Hall, which is about two miles from pie HQ as the crow flies, so it felt almost like home. And we got to wear sequins and flowers in our hair…

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Sit down and pull up a pie…

From time to time things happen which rock the normally peaceful world of a pie maker on her heels.  Things like applying for a bursary which would mean that we get to spend five days in the NEC at Birmingham being part of the BBC Winter Good Food Show. And then winning the bursary.


The Good Food Show will be nearly the first event we have done outside of Norfolk. We have attended a Great Taste Award market near Westminster and two extraordinary garden parties held by Soho House, but apart from that it’s all been on home turf. And at five days it’ll be the longest event we’ve been involved in. And, well, it’s the NEC and the BBC isn’t it? Huge!

But the Good Food Show organisers have faith in us, we’ll have a lot of friends and support there and back at home, and I think we are ready for the next big challenge. It’s very exciting, and as over 70 great producers applied for the bursary it’s a great honour to have been one of the few chosen.

So we thought a bit of a blog to record and celebrate the next few weeks and beyond would not be out of order. Come join me on the big adventure.

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