On the Line: Jai Snowdon and Ryan Lopiccolo of Pie-Not, Part One
There's no better way to celebrate the holidays than by indulging in some serious comfort food. I waited a long time to interview the gents from Pie-Not. Their handheld beauties made my top five list for the year for being affordable and original in this eclectic county. Jai, Ryan and I took a seat a few doors over at Jan's Health Bar for smoothies and discussion about their forthcoming locations.
What were the challenges to opening a storefront? How did you overcome them?
Both: We did an owner build, which means we did all the running around. We were extremely hands on. Every day there was a new challenge or obstacle to tackle, from a new 2013 Costa Mesa City Building Code schedule to abide by, to redesigning and remodeling our kitchen in the first week to accommodate the demand of unpredicted high sales.
The only way we survived was to keep a level head and be open to changes. We didn't try to marry ourselves to any one way. However, we always kept to our overall plan . . .we just modified the problem to fit the plan. Plenty and plenty of research also. I know Ryan read the entirety of the Costa Mesa City Plumbing Codes book.
How do Australian meat pies differ from American ones?
Both: Well, for one thing, they are eaten in-hand like a sandwich or hamburger, and the filling is not soupy like an American chicken pot pie. The pastry is a denser shortcrust pastry base, which allows the pie to hold together when picked up, and the pie is sealed with a flaky, butter puff pastry lid.
One food you can't live without.
Jai Snowdon: Vegetables. I LOVE my veges. I grew up in the rainforest of the Gold Coast hinterland till the near end of primary school. We grew our own food. I still grow at home today.
Ryan Lopiccolo: Fresh baked baguette, hands down. If baguettes were a super food, I'd be Superman.
What are your personal favorites on the menu (including coffee)?
Snowdon: Four shot soy flat white and a Bloomin Hot with a Slice of Heaven for dessert.
Lopiccolo: Drunken Cow, Bunderberg Ginger Beer and a Digger ANZAC biscuit.
How did you come up with the name?
Both: Why not? And it's a "pie", but not an "American pie".
Favorite meal growing up:
Snowdon: I loved everything. I was the kid that would devour anything that was put in front of him. I wasn't too keen on a stew my Mum used to make, lamb's fry and bacon. Not cool!
Lopiccolo: Well, I'm Italian. And everyone knows that when you're Italian, everything is about food and family. Homemade Italian was always something to look forward to, coming home from school.
Your best recent food find:
Both: Definitely ARC at SoCo Collection. We both love the rawness of it, especially the way that the chef is preparing wild game with robust flavors from traditional and non-traditional ingredients.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
Snowdon: I've tried some pretty funky stuff in Indonesia. Couldn't tell you what it was; definitely wasn't chicken.
Lopiccolo: I'm from New Orleans. What you consider weird, I consider everyday.
What is your beverage of choice?
Both: Well, we both LOVE a good coffee, and can't remember where we would even go before opening the store. Other than coffee, it would be fresh juice, preferably made at home. But when a quick fix is needed, we're at Nekter. Beer and a nice bottle of wine go over pretty well, too.
Let's talk about the coffee!
Both: Best coffee in town . . .HANDS DOWN!!! We are extremely proud to be serving an Aussie brand of coffee in our store, as well as being the only establishment grinding and pouring Bun Coffee from Byron Bay Australia in the US. From our house coffee, The Australian grown, 100% organic, single origin with a range of various organic coffee blends from around the world. It's ground fresh to take home. We are sure you will fall in love as we have.
You're making breakfast. What are you having?
Snowdon: A banana, a Synergy kombucha drink and vegemite on toast. Or a coffee and a quiche from Pie-Not.
Lopiccolo: Eggs Benedict and a dry cappuccino.
Favorite places to eat (besides your own):
Snowdon: Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop, Haute Cakes, Nekter, Banzai Bowls, Gulfstream and Shunka.
Lopiccolo: ARC, R&D Kitchen, Bear Flag Fish Company, Tabu Shabu and Bonzai Bowls.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Both: OC has the best range of culinary experiences . . .especially new and up-and-coming restaurant concepts.
Most undervalued ingredient:
Both: Herbs and spices. Adding just a little fresh herb, or a touch of a dried spice goes a LONG WAY. For example, the ground ginger added to our fresh seasonal fruit turnovers gives the pastry filling that little lift. The consumer is left with a whole new flavor experience.
Your earliest food memory:
Snowdon: It sounds really weird, but my earliest food memory is a leftovers-style breakfast that consists of any steamed vegetables, mashed and spread on toast with cheese. Aussies call it "Bubble & Squeak".
Lopiccolo: It would have to be making homemade ravioli with my great grandma at Christmas.
Where was your most recent meal?
Both: Jan's Health Bar, in the same center as Pie-Not, for a smoothie. They have amazing smoothies. Personal favorite is the Blue Power.
Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Both: The most valuable commodity is bench space. Don't clutter your home counter tops when cooking. It just makes everything 10 times harder.
Strangest customer request (and did you do it?):
Both: We get the request for steak and kidney pie ALL THE TIME. Especially from our British customers. Sorry, not going to happen.
Any plans to expand?
Both: Of course. We will be planning to open one or two more stores by the end of next year. There is a lot of pre-planning and logistics to go into an expansion, and we want to make sure that all of our Piehard Fans are given the best product possible across multiple locations.