Red Neds Gourmet Pie Bar in Nelson Bay wins 5 silver, 2 bronze in Australia's Best Pie Competition

Red Neds has long been a Nelson Bay food institution and the gourmet pie shop's new owner, Sam Leitch, is already building on that legacy.

Within five months of buying Red Neds from founder and master pie maker Barry Kelly, Mr Leitch has added seven national awards to the extensive list of accolades the shop has earned since 1997.

Red Neds Gourmet Pie Bar scooped five silver and two bronze awards in Australia's Best Pie Competition in May.

"We weren't expecting to win anything. It was our first competition so we were shocked and thrilled with how we went," Mr Leitch said.

"It was a bit of fun, a great way to promote the shop to learn. Talking to the judges, they were pretty critical at some points but we've learned a lot about what goes into making a good pie.

"It has given us a lot of confidence going forward. Getting a gold in a year or two is certainly realistic, and something we will work towards."

Chef Miguel Maestre with Barry Kelly at Red Neds Gourmet Pie Bar in 2016.

Chef Miguel Maestre with Barry Kelly at Red Neds Gourmet Pie Bar in 2016.

Red Neds was established 24 years ago by Mr Kelly and partner Margaret Bodie, who still works in the shop located in Stockton Street.

It's hard to miss Red Neds as the shop's other drawcard aside from tasty pies is the life-sized mannequin dressed as Ned Kelly, complete with tin helmet, Driza-Bone and pistol, that beckons people in or at least stop for photos.

Mr Kelly sold the business to Mr Leitch, who took over on December 14. Mr Kelly died in April, aged 86.

Mr Leitch said his initiation as the shop's new owner was a "baptism by fire", coming just days before one of Nelson Bay's busiest periods.

"It was a crazy time to take over a pie shop in Nelson Bay," laughs Mr Leitch. "We had maybe one semi-quiet week then it was the busiest week of the year. I have a great crew who all helped out. It was tough but we got through," he said.

Born and bred in Nelson Bay, Mr Leitch and family grew up eating Red Neds pies. Mr Kelly and Ms Bodie were also family friends.

Mr Leitch knew Mr Kelly had been looking to sell the business and after completing his international business degree and feeling a "little directionless", jumped on the opportunity to buy Red Neds.

Before his death, Mr Kelly was a regular in pie competitions and the awards Red Neds collected over the years were proudly displayed on the shop walls.

The awards were taken down this month when the shop was repainted but Mr Leitch said he plans to rehang them along with the awards won in May and create a display that showcases Red Neds award-winning history.

Mr Leitch said he hoped to expand the business in the future.

Rhonene Harris, Lee-Anne Russo and Sam Leitch at Red Neds in Nelson Bay.

Rhonene Harris, Lee-Anne Russo and Sam Leitch at Red Neds in Nelson Bay.

Aside from minor renovations at the shop, little has changed at Red Neds. Mr Kelly's wide variety of pies are still being made fresh every day. Mr Leitch has added two new varieties, swelling Red Neds offering to 36 pies.

Red Neds' silver medal winners were the Stroganoff Beef, Lobster, Prawn and Barramundi, Plain Beef Chunky Pie, Penang Curry Pumpkin and Sweet Potato and the Smoked Chicken and Camembert.

The Lobster, Prawn and Barramundi was one point off winning the gold award, scoring 49. If it had of scored a 50 out of 60, it would have taken the top prize.

The Penang Curry Pumpkin and Sweet Potato is a new pie, created by Mr Leitch with help from his father.

Bronze medal winners were the Plain Mince and Smokey Pork pies.

Mr Leitch said he was expecting the shop to busy across the June long weekend and staff had been busy during the week preparing best they could for the increase in visitation.

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