A pie enterprise becomes a drawcard in a South Canterbury town.
The Fairlie Bakehouse is now the number one destination in Fairlie, the main reason tourists to and from the Mackenzie Country visit Fairlie.
Franz and Christine Lieber began Liebers Pies and Fairlie Bakehouse eight years ago, moving from Omarama to Fairlie. Previously Franz was executive chef for the Mackenzie Group of 4 hotels. He was advised that Fairlie was too small to build a good regular trade and the town itself was suffering because not enough people stopped on their way from Canterbury to the Mackenzie Country. But he believed that people would stop and shop for quality foods, especially pies and pastries.
"I think we've now become a destination in our own right now - people know what they want when they come in and we're giving that to them." He also believes the success of the business is good for the town. It has brought more people into Fairlie, and provided dozens of jobs. A peak workforce of 40 people are employed during the high season, when tourists plan their trips to include a stop at Fairlie.
The premises were doubled in size during 2016 and now many customers stay and eat their pies and pastries while drinking coffee. There are 90 seats now, compared with 36 before. The expansion was a response to the ten-fold increase in business since its inception, and because customers queued out the doors during the peak season. It also provided a state-of-the-art kitchen for the cooking and now Franz has 32 permanent employees.
The basic principles include ‘Fresh is Best’. Everything is made fresh on site every day and anything not sold by the end of the day is not reheated and sold again the next day.
The bakehouse starts at 2am to have up to 2000 pies ready for each new day.
Franz cooks all the fillings himself and works from 2am to around 6pm seven days a week.
Current pie flavours include vegetable, smoked chicken with mushroom, mince and cheese, chicken, beef mince, bacon and salmon, beef with mushroom, silverside with mustard and potato, and beef steak.
- Lieber Pies are made using fresh ingredients, sourced close to home.
- They are filled with quality meat, cooked slowly and with care.
- They are not complicated – they don’t need to be.
- They contain absolutely no additives or preservatives.
- Every pie is hand-filled, so the inside is always what eaters expect.
Opening hours are 6am to 4.30pm and Franz himself works 14 hour days, seven days a week.
Franz buys local ingredients wherever he can. The only departure from that is when his demand outstrips local supplies. Beef rumps come from Silver Fern Farms, bacon from Hellers in Christchurch, salmon from Aoraki in Timaru, or Akaroa, goat meat from Nelson, the butter is from Mainland (Fonterra), and baker’s flour from the Farmers Flour Mill, Washdyke.
Onions come from South Canterbury, mushrooms from Meadow Mushrooms, Christchurch and free-range eggs are sourced locally.
Included in the reasons for buying locally is the need to sponsor local producers, as well as local schools and activities. Ingredients are also featured seasonally. Franz mills his own wholegrain flour.
Fairlie Bakehouse was the winner of the South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce People’s Choice award in 2012 and 2013 and the Hospitality Industry award in 2013. It topped the Trip Advisor list of places to eat in Canterbury, from out of 1067 places. "It meant a lot to us. I monitored Trip Advisor on a daily basis because so many people travelling through are influenced to stop by good reviews. We don't get many bad reviews but when I do I always show it to the staff and we try to learn from it - you never know who is coming in the door next but if you treat everyone equally it's hard to go wrong."