Capel St Mary: Local meat pie men have it covered

Taylor Scrutton and Martyn Cox of Country Pies from Capel St Mary tell SARAH CHAMBERS about a business on the rise

THE humble pie has played an illustrious part in our history and culture.

From Little Jack Horner’s Christmas pie, that unforgettable pastry containing four-and-twenty blackbirds, and dodgy pies eaten on football terraces, they’ve always been something of a national obsession

Four years ago, Martyn Cox and Taylor Scrutton decided to lift the lid on the ancient art of pie-making and use their gastronomic experience to carry it to new heights.

They took over Country Pies, based in Capel St Mary, having made the decision to go into business for themselves.

Both came from a highly successful meat catering business, Direct Meats in Chappel, north Essex, giving them a strong base in catering businesses and an appreciation of good food.

Martyn, the older of the two, had been at Direct Meats since 1995 when it was set up, and Taylor had joined later, starting as a 13-year-old ‘Saturday boy’. He was a promising youngster, and was put through college, scooping an award from the Worshipful Company of Butchers at the age of 18. Their work had enabled both of them to visit some of the best kitchens in London, and both were serious “foodies”.

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“Martyn and I liked cooking so it was a natural progression. Ideally, I was looking to go to some of the kitchens in London, but that didn’t happen and this opportunity came along and we thought: ‘Let’s just go for it’,” explains Taylor.

Martyn, who was a director at Direct Meats, adds: “We have been great friends right through, since we worked together. I had been involved in Direct Meats for so long, I think it was good to go back to our roots. That time comes along when you want to start again.

“Because of both of our interests in food, not just meat, but the next level if you like, we kind of made up our minds to set up something.”

Country Pies was for sale and they decided to jump in and buy it. The business had been started in 1991 and run by father and son team, Alan and David Woodley. Alan had decided to retire, but David was happy to stay on in the business. Taylor came in straight away while Martyn stayed on in his old job while they got the business where they wanted it.

“Neither of us knew how to make a pie, so it was a bit of a brave thing to do,” says Taylor.

A year or so in, Taylor was running himself ragged, working with just one other employee and a part-time driver.

“I really needed to get in here,” says Martyn, and he did, quitting Direct in order to concentrate on taking their business to the next level.

Their emphasis has been on ensuring high quality pies which don’t skimp on the filling.

“We cook to restaurant standard,” says Martyn. “There are lots of pie companies out there and one thing that always comes back when we start serving somebody new is they say it’s really nice to eat a pie with some real meat in it and a good quantity of filling.”

Taylor adds: “We see if the elements go together. If we are going to do anything, we are going to do it properly and we are going to create honest food that people like.”

They were not willing to compromise on ingredients, and they also wanted to try to keep the food seasonal. They only cook to order, baking fresh on the morning of delivery.

Their customer base includes restaurants, farm shops, hotels and catering establishments across East Anglia and some of the capital’s top chefs.

They have built up good relations with quality local suppliers, and it’s these ingredients which have inspired them to try new things. Their range of traditional pies includes steak and kidney pie, chicken and Suffolk ham, steak and our Capel mushrooms, broccoli, blue cheese and spring onion, wild game pie and lamb, roast parsnip and thyme pie.

They also make quiches and tarts, sausage rolls and pasties, and produce gift boxes for Christmas.

They are now planning to extend their bakery, set in a converted granary, to keep up with demand from their growing customer base.

In four years, turnover has trebled to around �350,000/400,000 and they now have four kitchen stasff and two drivers and they are looking to recruit more.

“I wouldn’t get blase about it, but the ncie thing today is now people are contacting us and it’s because they have heard of us or it’s on recommendation,2 says Martyn.

“We started in the middle of a recession but we decided not to compromise,” he adds. “If we can come through what we have been through over the last four years we can only get stronger.”

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