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 Cambodian Migrant Wins Pie King Title
 Posted: Jun 27 2018, 11:58 AM

Dentus Chookus

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Cambodian migrant crowned king of Australian pies

ABC Central Victoria
By Larissa Romensky and Fiona Parker

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Photo: Chan Khun spent eight years working towards winning Australia's best pie competition. (ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky)

Having never eaten a pie before setting foot in Australia, a Cambodian migrant who now calls Victoria home has taken out the top prize for Australia's best pie.

Chan Khun, from Kyneton, won the title of Australia's Best Pie 2018 as judged by the Baking Association of Australia at a ceremony held on the Gold Coast last week.

Keen to improve the taste of the classic Aussie dish, the 37-year-old reflected his Asian roots — and Australia's changing palette — by creating the award-winning 'seafood satay pie'.

"It's quite an honour for me and a big opportunity for me to provide back to the community," Mr Khun said.

"I'm going to make the best pie for Australians."

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Photo: Chan Khun said he was always trying new recipes for his pies and pasties. (ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky)

Made from scratch, the spicy pie used fresh ingredients and was one of 1700 entries from 350 bakeries across the country all vying for the prize.

It was one of seven awards for the ex-factory worker, who also claimed top honours in the best plain and vegetarian pie and best apprentice plain pie categories.

While Mr Khun was also a winner in a couple of categories last year, it took eight years of hard work to take out the top prize.

"It means the world to me," he said.

Hard work the secret to success

Mr Khun, who moved to Australia in 2004, said there were three important factors involved in making a good pie.

"It's very hard to get the perfect puff pastry consistency and the filling has to be good," he said.

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Photo: Chan Khun loves the challenge of creating new and different types of pies. (ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky)

"[You have] to be able to hold it in your hands to eat until the last bite."

It was while working in a Melbourne factory that Mr Khun was first introduced to the Australian classic which he described as "different".

"Every lunchtime I always saw the truck come with lots of pies and everyone loved pies — Australians love pies," he said.

Mr Khun then went on to work at a bakery in Melbourne for a year before enrolling in TAFE courses for baking and pastry making.

The qualified bakery and pastry chef said there were many sacrifices along the way.

He slept in his car for two years while he juggled full-time work and more than 30 hours of study per week.

"I worked at night, I started at 2am in the morning and finished at 8 o'clock and I started class at 9 o'clock," Mr Khun said.

"At midday I always had a 15-minute break and I slept in the car.

"But the key to success is work hard, work hard, work hard."

All in the family

Mr Khun's love of food began at an early age influenced by his time spent in the kitchen with his mother.

"Cooking is very natural for me, it's something I know straight away what I need to put into [a dish]," he said.

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Photo: Chan Khun's sister Annie went head-to-head with her brother Ryan in last year's apprentice vanilla slice category and came second, while he came first. (ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky)

As the eldest son, the young boy was expected to help in the kitchen, but it was when his mother was recovering from a road accident when he was 13 that he became fully responsible for feeding the family.

"What I cooked back then was nothing special — just basic cooking — but I could still do the job properly," he said.

Now his entire family is involved in the baking business, including his two sisters and brother, with his Melbourne-based parents making the trip to Kyneton on the weekends to help in the busy shop.

"Without their support it would be a disaster to run a big shop like this one," he said.

Mr Khun said he will continue to try new recipes in an attempt to keep his customers happy.

"It's something that everyone loves, so I had to do the best for people," he said.

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Photo: Apprentice Jimmy Van (left) with Chan Khun preparing the pastry for pasties. (ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky)

Apprentice Jimmy Van won the apprentice category for best vanilla slice in last year's competition.

Congratulations to Chan and the Khun family. They, like many migrants past and present, achieve success through hard work and determination. It is this attitude that earns them respect and acceptance.

“If life were predictable it would cease to be life, and be without flavor.” - Eleanor Roosevelt

“All of life is peaks and valleys. Don’t let the peaks get too high and the valleys too low.” - John Wooden
 Posted: Jun 27 2018, 02:27 PM


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Good to see, some Australians could take a leaf out of their book.
 Posted: Jun 27 2018, 06:25 PM

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I can't find a pie that doesn't have msg, hydrolysed vegetable protein, yeast extract or other flavour enhancers locally..

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