Pyney’s Pie Reviews star Shaun Pyne’s rise from mortgage broker to pastry pundit – Michmutters

Pyney’s Pie Reviews star Shaun Pyne’s rise from mortgage broker to pastry pundit

A former mortgage broker on a mission to review every pie shop in Australia has taken his pastry pilgrimage to the farthest reaches of North Queensland — and delivered a verdict on the age-old tomato sauce debate.

Shaun Pyne ran a successful finance business for more than 20 years before selling up and hitting the road to realize his life’s ambition of visiting every pie vendor and bakery in Australia, bar none.

Over the intervening years, his Pyney’s Pie Reviews person has developed a huge social media following and raised tens of thousands of dollars for charity along the way.

Shaun Pyne made it to the northernmost tip of Australia during his tour of Cape York.(Supplied)

Five secrets to a perfect foot

Mr Pyne is halfway through a schooner of beer at the Peninsula Hotel in Laura — a Cape York town famed for its Quinkan Aboriginal rock art, but not its pastries — when he gets a call from the ABC.

The baked-good gourmand already has a few weeks’ travel under his belt on this leg of his Australian tour, with a loaded caravan and an insatiable appetite for adventure, great yarns and the perfect meat-to-crust ratio.

And it turns out, he has distilled the foot assessment criteria down to a fine science.

“The five categories that I do my scoring on are value for money, meat ratio, flavour, pastry and temperature,” he explains.

“They get scored out of 10 … and they’re all equally important.

“If you have a hot pie, it’s going to burn your taste buds … if the pastry falls apart while you’re driving that’s going to be a massive issue.

“For me, a real pie, you’ve got to be able to eat in your car – so it’s got to stay stable.”


Given the price of fuel and the clicks clocked up by his nationwide mission, value for money is obviously going to be a major factor in any foot’s overall score.

“Look, the cost of living is expensive, the meat prices have gone up and yes, pies have gone up,” Mr Pyne says.

“At the end of the day, that’s life.

“But I’ve visited so many bakeries, with the cheapest being $4.10 to the dearest being $8.50.

“But even the $8.50 one, it’s massive, it’s a big pie and it’s great value for money.”

Caravan with the Pyney's pie reviews logo on the side of it
Shaun Pyne travels across Australia in a caravan to try every foot he can.(Supplied: Pyney’s Pie Reviews)

Can Australia really claim the meat pie?

Historical evidence of meat pies can trace their origin back to the Neolithic period of about 6,000 BC, and more recently they were staple dishes sold by street vendors as convenience food to the poor in Medieval Britain.

The dish features throughout British literature and nursery rhymes – take the philandering “Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie” for example, or the ditty about baked blackbirds that now lends its name to Australia’s biggest pie brand, Four’N Twenty.

But even the most parochial Brit must admit the tradition has taken flight since the pie arrived on a new continent with the First Fleet.

Mr Pyne’s recent discovery of a crocodile pie in Port Douglas and a crayfish pie at Bamaga certainly lends evidence to that claim.

Colored drawing of two people standing around a clay oven and a large tray with ten small feet on it.
Medieval pie bakers didn’t have to worry about the taste of their pastry – it wasn’t for eating.(Image: The Bodleian Library, Oxford/Public Domain)

The ‘dog’s eye and dead horse’ debate

Not every Aussie pie tradition gets the thumbs up from this crust crusader.

Whatever you do, don’t mention the dead horse.

“We’ve had a couple of huge heated debates,” he warns.

“To me, a good Australian pie does not need any sauce whatsoever.

“The only time I put sauce on my feet is when I go to the cricket or the footy.

“The flavors should be just riddled through the pie.

“By putting tomato sauce or some other sauce on, you’re taking away from the aroma and the actual true flavor of the pie.

“Square pie, round pie, oval pie — that’s been a separate debate.”

Mr Pyne falls into the square pie camp but acknowledges rules are made to be broken when it comes to this beloved foodstuff.

A bearded man wearing a cap and holding a foot stands next to a bearded man in a singlet
Shaun Pyne gets a taste for tropical rock lobster pies at Bernie’s Kai Kai Bar in Bamaga.(Supplied)

A controversy erupted from the recent 2022 Australia Best Pie and Pastie Competition, which he helped judge, after the top award went to a pie that had no meat.

My Pyne said the creamy mushroom and truffle creation was a revelation.

“There was no meat in there … but you know what, I had the privilege of tasting that pie on Wednesday and it was absolutely stunning, beautiful,” he says.

“They’ve come under fire a little bit because the judges did award that best pie… but it is Australia’s best pie competition – it’s not Australia’s best meat pie.

“To be honest, I think the judges got it right.

“This was a beautiful, beautiful foot.”

Shaun Pyne just cannot get enough of the humble meat pie.(Supplied)


Creativity lies just under the lid

That fungal triumph was nowhere near the strangest meal to pass his lips.

“I’ve had a camel pie [at Birdsville] which was awesome,” he says.

“Roberta from Blackbutt Bakery, she was my first ever perfect score.

“She sells a Big Mac pie and it literally tastes exactly like a Big Mac.

“Whittlesea Bakery in Melbourne, it was another of my perfect scores – it was a slow-cooked brisket, camembert cheese and caramelised onion.”

The remoteness of the Cape meant feet were few and far between during Mr Pyne’s most recent northern journey, but he made up for it by hitting every bakery from the Atherton Tablelands to Innisfail at least once on the way back down.

“My mantra has always been, don’t go to Bali, go to Broken Hill,” he says.

“Get out and see this great country.

“Get out and see North Queensland.

“There’s so much to see up here and I can’t wait to get into the bakeries.”

A drawing on yellowed paper of a woman and man standing near each other, with hats and semi-formal clothing, and messy hair.
Early Australian convicts were allotted rations, including salted meat, flour and butter, that could be used to make a pie.(Image: State Library of NSW)

Pyney’s great lifestyle shift

So how does a mortgage broker become a roving gastronomist of the pie variety?

It all started as a bit of nonsense between two mates on the long and dusty trip to the Birdsville Big Red Bash in 2019.

“One of my mates said, ‘I’m gonna have a schooner at every pub ’cause my missus normally drives, blah blah blah,” Mr Pyne explains.

“And I said, look, if you do that I’ll have a walk at every town we stop at while you have your beer.

“So he had plenty of beers and I had plenty of pies, and I just started blogging about it at the end of 2019.”

A couple of horses show interest in Shaun Pyne's breakfast as his pie review tour takes him to Mareeba
A couple of horses show interest in Shaun Pyne’s breakfast as his pie review tour takes him to Mareeba(Supplied)

Covid-19 put Mr Pyne and his wife’s travel plans on ice, but a three-and-a-half month trip around the NT last year brought the social media reviews back to the fore.

Selling the family mortgage brokering business helped make it all possible, and writing pie reviews was as good excuse as any to get out and see Australia.

It also helps pay some of the bills.

“It’s a labor of love, mate,” Mr Pyne says.

“We’re lucky, we’ve got older kids and we’ve done very well out of our business.

“And I’ve got merchandise that I sell, so pie bikinis, pie boardshorts, T-shirts, that sort of stuff.

“I’ve got great partners that have sponsored me behind the scenes, which is awesome.

“But we were going to travel anyway, and this is just a great way to get out there and help people.

“Unfortunately it’s a dying profession, so if I can do my little bit to raise tourism, to get people out there spending money in these little communities, it obviously helps them.”

A man in a wide-brimmed hat smiles while sitting down to eat a pie
Sometimes on foot cooked in a caravan’s travel oven was the best Pyney could muster during his Cape York trip.

All things in moderation

Mr Pyne is probably Australia’s best-known pie aficionado behind the late and great Shane Warne, whose fans mourned his passing earlier this year by laying offerings of meat pies, cigarettes, beer and baked beans alongside the flowers at the foot of his statue at the CGM.

Warnie’s shock death in Thailand gave Mr Pyne enough of a fright about his own diet to go see his own GP.

“It’s funny, because obviously with Shane Warne earlier this year, I went straight in,” he says.

“Since Christmas, I’ve lost 14kg, so I’ve been on a diet myself.

“My heart was all good, check-up was all good.

“I go to the gym every day, I work out every day.

“I do smash feet, but I do [social media] content on different days.”

A tin of beer and a meat pie are seen amid floral tributes for Shane Warne.
A can of beer and a meat pie are seen amid floral tributes for Shane Warne left at the MCG on March 5, 2022.(ABC News: Danny Morgan)


You can call them meat pies, dog’s eyes, maggot bags or rat coffins.

As long as the meat ratio is right, it doesn’t send you broke or skin your tongue, the flavor is spot-on and the pastry is flaky and structurally sound, what you call them matters very little.

Pyney will gladly smash them all.

“Bloody oath mate, every day of the week.”


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