Around the world and in most cultures a food staple includes some form of pie. Pastry on the bottom, filling in the middle and pastry on the top equals pie wherever one is in the world.
Here, in North America, pie is a sweet treat featuring fruit and ample amounts of sugar served after dinner.
Most Commonwealth countries around the world wouldn't dream of spoiling good pastry by filling it with fruit.
Kerri Jones came to Whistler for a season of snowboarding and quickly discovered the resort lacked the kind of pie she and all her Australian friends enjoy Down Under. Like so many others who came to Whistler for a season, Jones found the Whistler Cool Aid and drank from the fountain until she realized the resort was where she wanted to be, despite the lack of what she considered real pies.
Her grand plan to make her way to Europe to work in the cruise industry was scrapped. Her connection to Whistler firmed up one Sunday evening when Jones met a Victoria guy named Alex Relf at the Longhorn.
The two hospitality industry workers hit it off and two years later the partners decided they didn't want to be employees anymore. Jones says that after they met Relf told her that he dreamed of opening his own restaurant. She says he makes amazing Aussie pies so together they started planning.
The plan called for the pair to be heroes of every resident and visitor from places like Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa — countries where pies are eaten for dinner, not dessert.
This week they opened Peaked Pies on Main Street.
"I just had no hesitation that it was going to work," says Jones well before the shop opens for business on Sunday. "He didn't understand, but it was basically knowing that we've got a product that needs to be here."
Gourmet pies were, in the mind of Jones, a missing food group for a large number of people in the resort.
"We wanted to fill that void and create something new," says Relf. "When you look at the fast food market in Whistler there's Fat Tony's and Dupps and stuff like that but there's nothing quite like this. We wanted to create a place where people could come and have a good meal with good food at a reasonable price point."
While the price point is important the pair also knows the value of good service and with their individual backgrounds in the service industry they agreed the pie shop had to be a friendly place with smiling servers. The place they have created is a cozy outlet well suited for takeout or eating in.
Eight pies ranging from a traditional Aussie pie to a chunky steak pie, curry beef, vegetable medley and chicken, leek and mushroom pie to the Canadian Beef Chili are currently on the menu. Every pie customer is asked if they want to peak their pie.
Peaking a pie involves topping it with mashed potato, mushy peas and gravy.
The pair recognizes that not everyone loves pie as much as Jones and her legions of followers from the U.K. and the rest of the Commonwealth so the pair also offers spinach and ricotta rolls along with sausage rolls. Relf says he plans to offer unique special pies for a few days at a time. Earlier this month a chunky chicken sautéed peanut pie was offered. The next special Relf offered was Whistler Ale soaked steak pie.
"It's funny how it all just pieced together," says Relf as pie production takes place behind him. "It's still surreal, it still hasn't sunk in. Half the time I'm wondering what are we doing?"
He says the biggest challenge for the shop is introducing Canadians and Americans to meat pies.
"You get the North Americans saying, 'Oh, you guys will do really well in the winter because it is a winter food.' We don't get snow in Australia," says Jones. "Australia is like summer all year. There's 30 million Australians, there's 230 million pies sold every year and it's summer."
Just two weeks into operations, the pair knows they have hit on a winning formula. They say they already have regulars who come daily and a few have been in for two pies in one day.
"There's a lot of Australians in Vancouver who have actually come up to get pies," says Jones.
She goes on to say that a few people informed them they heard about the shop through social media and made a special trip from Vancouver to check out Whistler's new pie place.
Once customers are finished their pie, there's the option of following it with a lamington. Pie followed by cake — only in Australia and now available in Whistler.