Some kids get in trouble when their parents go away for the weekend because they nick all their booze and throw a party. I used to get in trouble when my parents went away because I would nick all the good cuts of meat out of the freezer and have a dinner party!
I was always cooking when I was a kid & I was always foraging—not that we called it foraging back then. Mushrooming, yabbying, rabbiting, fishing, shooting … just about anything that ended in ‘ing’ I was into. It took me a surprisingly long time to put two-and-two together and figure out that when Dad and I went ferreting we always had “underground chicken burgers” for dinner that night.
As a family we always sat at the bench in the kitchen for dinner. I think the importance that my folks placed on the evening meal was a big inspiration for me. Cooking food is all about bringing family and friends together.
I grew up in north east Victoria. When I was 18 I moved to Sydney and stumbled into a chef’s apprenticeship. By the time I was 22 I was head chef at a very busy eatery in Balmain. That’s where I met Caroline – the love of my life. We went to Caroline’s home in England for four years and then travelled across Europe and Asia.
In 2003 I moved back to Australia and decided to go into business with my folks. We didn’t know what business we were getting into, exactly, but it was going to be about food.
My sister had just moved down the south coast, and one Sunday morning Dad and I were sitting on the fence outside the Marlin Hotel in Ulladulla. There was a half eaten pie sitting on the fence – most likely left there by some drunken reveller at 2am. Dad and I turned to each other and said, “How about a pie shop?”
We found a space to lease and did all the renovations ourselves. Sam, the building’s owner, must have been extremely nervous. One day we ripped down a wall, the next day we were building another, and the days after that, we were walking in with welders, a concrete grinder and pallets of tiles. Then there was the time we pushed a six-meter-long sink into the shop from the back of a truck. At the end of six weeks I walked out of the shop with a welders mask and returned the next morning wearing a chef’s jacket.
I wasn’t from a baking background; I even failed pastry lessons at TAFE … twice. It was a hard slog for the first few years. I was determined to teach myself, and slowly but surely we became a busy little pie shop.
We have the most amazing customers in the world. They are extremely passionate about our pies.
On my first Father’s Day our house got hit by a massive gumtree in a wild wind storm. It was a blessing in disguise. Our outdoor area was smashed to smithereens and it was replaced by what can only be described as the hub of all of our wonderful gatherings with family and friends. We built a wood fired oven and we’re slowly gaining revenge on the tree that hit our house, pizza by pizza, Christmas dinner by Christmas dinner.
HOW HAYDEN GOT INTO CHEFFING:
When I was 18 years old, I moved to Sydney from country Victoria. My plan was to crash with my sister Nikki for a couple of weeks until I got a job and my own place to live. Nikki just happened to live above a pub.
“You little ripper!” I said to myself. Before I went upstairs to meet Nikki I snuck in for a quick beer, and I met the publican and asked him if he had any work. He asked if I wanted to paint the pub.
“Yes!” I said.
“Good. You start at midnight, I’ll have the ladders and paint ready for you. By the way, what beer tap do you want me to leave on for you?”
The VB tap got left on for the next few weeks. I also got paid $500.
On the last morning the chef said his kitchen hand hadn’t turned up. After washing the paint brushes I started washing the dishes.
I wasn’t very good at it but I loved it. I showed up every day, seven days a week, almost always doing double shifts.
The pub closed at Christmas, and that was my first day off for three months. I saw a couple of head chefs come and go but I stuck around and one day a Frenchman called Xavier walked in. We worked with each other on and off over the next ten years. And he has been with us at Hayden’s Pies almost from the start.