22 Oct 2020

Inaugural Bakels Legendary Sausage Roll competition to crown best in the country

6:32 am on 22 October 2020

For the very first time, bakers are vying for the title of the country's best sausage roll.

Delicious homemade sausage rolls on a wooden serving platter.

Bakels headquarters is filled with thousands of sausage rolls, all in plain numbered boxes to remove any bias or favourites, and ready to be judged. File image. Photo: 123RF

A spinoff from the huge Bakels Supreme Pie competition which has run for 23 years, this year the humble snag roll has got its chance for glory.

It's serious business, though - trade for the winning baker is likely to go through the roof.

Donning chef jackets with clipboards in hand, half a dozen industry pros flown in from around the country have the serious task of awarding the inaugural Bakels Legendary Sausage Roll competition.

Bakels headquarters is filled with thousands of sausage rolls, all in plain numbered boxes to remove any bias or favourites.

Some judges turned up without having eaten breakfast to make a bit of room. It's important work for an absolute classic.

"Whether you go to a funeral or a birthday party or whatever, you normally find a sausage roll on the menu. It's quite a classic in New Zealand history, the old sausage roll," Brent Kersel, the managing director of Bakels, said.

It was his call to give the lesser cousin of the pie its own competition.

But how do you rate a sausage roll?

First, each is displayed by a glove-wearing competition official, turned over, rated for appearance, and then cut into thirds for a taste - the bulk of the marks. However, only the best of the best entries even make it through to the tasting round.

"They've got criteria that they need to mark against: the quality of the sausage roll, the colour, the pastry, the shrinkage, they cut it in half and have a look at the filling to see if it fills out the shell of the pastry," Tony Marshall, Bakels' national sales manager, said.

"Three identical sausage rolls in the boxes, there's a maximum weight and a maximum length. If they don't meet that criteria they're disqualified right at the start."

Strict rules are in effect because there's a lot on the line, if the pie competition's anything to go by.

"Most of the winners would get a 300 percent increase in business. There are people who'll travel the country and wait to find out who the pie winner is," Marshall said.

The competition is filled with the classics - beef, pork or lamb - none of this newfangled gourmet business.

With so many to taste, a day's sampling can take its toll.

"We won't eat another sausage roll for probably another year or two. With the pie awards normally you don't eat pies ever again after that," said one judge, Kylie Sutherland, of Foodstuffs.

While not a baker, celebrity judge Jeremy Wells thought he had some pretty loose qualifications after eating them heaps as a kid.

"I've eaten a lot of sausage rolls. Have I eaten them in a judging manner every single time? No. Sometimes I eat them because my children haven't finished theirs and I need to finish it for them and I hate wasting food. Sometimes I eat them because I'm looking for that little gap-filler that really hits the spot mid-afternoon," Wells said.

Wells says sausage rolls "are no pie", calling them the poor cousin, but he'll take what he can get after angling for years to be a pie competition judge to no avail.

The top 10 from the pool stages were judged again from scratch, again anonymously. The ultimate winning sausage roll will be revealed today, and will take home $1500 and a trophy.