When Michael Burgess first started selling savory hand-pies out of a small storefront in Vienna, he didn’t know nostalgia for British baked goods would be so strong.
“There are a lot of Anglophiles here who’ve had work experience in the U.K., with their company or the military,” says Burgess, British accent and all, who opened shop in 2010 after leaving his banking career in Cheshire, England. “People will travel an hour and a half to get to us.”
The Pure Pasty Co. shares a name with its signature item: the pasty (pronounced PASS-tea), a meat-and-vegetable meal wrapped into a half-moon of buttery rough puff pastry. Burgess’ kitchen has reimagined the pasty—started as a simple lunch for Cornish tin miners in the 1700s—as a template for creative fillings, from chicken masala to Moroccan lamb.
The shop’s riffs on tradition are so good its BBQ chicken pasty won top honors at the World Pasty Championships in Cornwall, England in March, much to Burgess’ surprise.
The pie was one of four entered by The Pure Pasty Co.—and not the one Burgess expected to win (chicken masala is his best seller in Vienna). News that an American shop snagged top prize had a heyday with British media—whose headlines fixated on a sacrilegious ingredient in the winning pasty: pineapple. Burgess, still lavishing in the media attention a few days later, laughed off the “controversy” about his pasty, made of spicy chicken, sweet potatoes, roasted bell peppers, sweet corn—and a tiny bit of the tropical fruit.
“I did the math on the recipe and it’s like 6.5 percent pineapple,” says Burgess.
Locals looking for a taste of the world’s best pasty will also find British staples such as steak-and-kidney pie and sausage rolls on the shop’s menu. Lining one wall (next to the Cornwall flag) is an array of edible British memorabilia , from digestive biscuits to pined-for brands of British chocolates.
Customers, Burgess says, “come to us because they have a memory of an item from 10 years ago. My job is not so much to make really great food, but to be true to people’s memories.”