Whilst you may not know much about Fergus Muller, there’s a high chance you’ve eaten one of his pasties. For the last five years, Fergus has become the main man for his family business, Ann’s Pasties, continuing a legacy proudly built by his mother and grandmother and taking it into an exciting new era.
The story of Ann’s Pasties begins with a long, proud line of matriarchal pasty making. For Fergus’ mum Ann, the founder of Ann’s Pasties, all of the women in her mother’s Cornish family traditionally made pasties, and after discovering her knack for crimping and pasty making alongside her mother Hettie, she saw the opportunities running a good pasty business could bring. From there, the business started, from trading pasties for fish and vegetables with neighbours and friends to selling their delicious wares at Helston’s markets. Soon a shop in Porthleven had opened and Ann’s family home had their garage transformed into pasty kitchen. After that, the rest is history.
Today, Ann’s son, Fergus, has stepped in to take the helm and in doing so has taken the pasty making business to new, pioneering heights. If he’s not surfing, rowing, or relaxing on the Isles of Scilly, Fergus Muller can be found crimping pasties and creating new flavours. However, for Fergus, it’s not just about keeping the iconic Ann’s Pasty recipe alive, it’s also about making pasties to the highest quality they can be, both in taste and produce.
“We’ve found out niche area of being a high-quality pasty company which hasn’t gone mass produced,” explains Fergus, “We’d rather extend our menu range, we’ve already got some really nice sausage rolls and we’ve got a great chef helping us to create some new ketchups. We want to give our shops a café vibe and we’ve got an alcohol license for Porthleven, I’m looking to turn the outside of the shop into a little bar area and we’ve already got our own Ann’s Pasty beer.”
Driven to keep up with today’s market, whilst keeping to traditional values, Fergus is a pasty maker who is passionate about hyper local produce, where profits come in second to quality.
“It’s still a traditional Cornish pasty recipe, the brand is from Porthleven and it’s the pasty of the Lizard Peninsula. I’m never going to grow into other pasty company patches, I don’t want a turf war, I’m keeping to our local area and Ann’s Pasties have always been on the Lizard, it’s unique to this location.”
It’s not just about new looks and modern feels. Everything Fergus and his team bring in to make the pasties come from within a ten-mile radius, the vegetables are from Leedstown 5.5 miles away, the potatoes from Manaccan and the cheese is from Davidstow. Proudly, the team have just revealed for health purposes they have switched from table salt to salt from the Isles of Scilly, created and shipped in exclusive for Ann’s Pasty usage. The meat costs nearly double the wholesale rates, but it’s a cost Fergus is willing to sacrifice within his small business if it means a better-quality life for the animal that it’s come from as well as a better tasting product in his pasties.
“As a business you’ve got to be thinking that way, it’s not just about making things look nice and modern, you’ve got to be thinking about not going for the cheapest vegetables or the cheapest cuts of meat, it’s like dumbing down the national dish of Cornwall for a profit margin and in my opinion that’s wrong. You’ve got to be making it as best as you can. If you start to cut corners, you start to lose track of where it’s come from. If you find meat half the price of local, you have to think about where that meat has come from and the life that animal has had. We use Dales, the family butchers, they get all our meat within a 10-mile radius of our area…sometimes it comes from just down the road.”
Catering to an exceptionally critical market, Fergus’ ultimate goal is making Cornwall’s national dish as if he were the one eating it every time. In the main production kitchen on the outskirts of Helston, Fergus is no stranger to crimping pasties and preparing veg. Crafting a classic traditional steak in a matter of minutes, his crimping skills are efficient and precise and it’s something he feels strongly about when it comes to consumer consumption.
“We stick very true to the traditional steak pasty, we do crimp over the top and there’s a bit of a contentious issue of that but in this area, we do top crimping. It’s a harder way to crimp but you get more filling in and less crump. I think there’s a lot of jealousy from the side crimpers, but I think top crimping is the best way. Side crimping lends itself to manufacturing, it’s a lot of pastry wadded down on one side. The pasty looks just as big but there’s actually a lot less filling inside.”
Not to mention Fergus’ appetite for creating new flavour combinations, Ann’s Pasties is constantly cooking up new ideas and fillings for their products and with the café goal in sight there’s already a lot on the menu,
“We’ve got Bloody Mary ketchup and we’ve got black pudding, apple and thyme flavours, sage and apricot, plain, liver and onion, and baked bean and hogs pudding. At Christmas we did a Venison pasty with celeriac and juniper and duck sausage rolls. We’re always trying to do something that’s seasonal, for summer in our chicken pasty we also use leg meat which gives it a richer flavour. We’ve just done some cheese and three-cornered leek pasties, we went foraging and have brought some three-cornered leek into the cheese, it’s really delicious.”
For a growing number of locals and visitors, vegetarian and vegan lifestyles are becoming the cuisine of choice and in the pasty realm that can often prove difficult to navigate, luckily Ann’s Pasties have adapted well to the changing market as well as working together with other local Cornish businesses to bring each other foods to a wider audience.
“We do have a vegan pasty,” Fergus says, “We introduced a few things into it that aren’t so Cornish, such as sweet potato which unfortunately isn’t grown around here, but there is also parsnip which is local, and we put parsley and the same vegetable ingredients as the traditional. We do a wholegrain vegan pastry with no egg glaze and recently we’ve teamed up with Rustic Cakes, it’s a match made in heaven, we’re doing a swap deal with them so now visitors can have a pasty and a cake in the cafe and the whole lot is vegan.”
Creating the national dish of Cornwall is a never-ending adventure and it’s something that this modern pasty maker is continuing to keep to a high standard. Debates and discussions have been had for centuries over the unassuming, D’shaped, however, amongst the playful discussions, the real questions that should be asked are often lost. Where does the meat used come from, or the vegetables? How far has it travelled, how does it make use of the local area? In an age where food ethics and conscious eating are becoming ever more prominent, Ann’s Pasties can proudly take the lead as a small business keen to focus more on its produce and people, rather than its profit.
That, and they taste ‘andsome too.
Next time you’re exploring the stunning realm of the Lizard Peninsula, you know what to do for lunch. Check out Ann’s Pasty Shops below and make a note for your next day out! And don’t forget you can always order one for DELIVERY.
The Helston Pasty Shop
18 Tresprison Business Park, Helston, Cornwall, TR13 0QD
The Lizard Pasty Shop
Sunny Corner, Beacon Terrace, The Lizard, Cornwall TR12 7PB
Porthleven Pasty Shop
Fore St, Porthleven, Helston TR13 9HQ
Mullion Pasty Shop
Mullion, Helston, TR12 7BZ