I know in certain parts of the States, the U.K. [has] a bad reputation for food. But what the U.K. has done really well is taking other people’s food and becoming a multicultural food. In the area of the U.K. that I came from, meat pies, especially meat and kidney pies, pork pies — it was everywhere. It was the kind of fast food that you grew up on. You didn’t grow up on burgers and fries and things like that. I used to snowboard a lot in Colorado and different Rockies resorts, Montana, going up into Canada as well, and when I came over to the U.S. I was always saying, “They don’t have pies and pasties like we do in the U.K. Surely there’s a huge hole in the market for this.”

[The pasty] comes from one little region in the U.K. — Cornwall. This is an area that I was very familiar with as a child. Before I set off for America, I went down to that area and found out everything there was to know about it. Pasty shops took me in and showed me how they did it. They’ve been around for a long time. Henry VIII referenced having pasties made for him by one of his wives. This food became a real staple of Cornwall because it was the lunch food for tin miners. The pastry shell would be a lot harder because the miner was gonna stick it in his pocket and take it down the mines with him. Wives were valued on their ability to make pastry crust that could withstand the fall down the mine shaft. That’s not where we want to be with pastry shells. Nobody’s gonna be throwing their pasties down a mine. So, we make it a lot more delicate.

Mike Burgess, owner of The Pure Pasty Co. (Matt McClain/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

This is not my normal business. To move from IT management into a restaurant business is quite a large step to take. In IT, it all went according to the plan, and if it wasn’t in the plan, it didn’t happen. It was very detailed, very finite, no gray areas. And this, you make a big plan, you launch it, and you suddenly find out it’s going off in a completely different direction.

For example, it seems entirely logical now that besides pasties we’d make meat pies. It’s the mainstay of the British pies — steak and kidney pies. But kidneys? Americans? They seem to have this, Noooo! I’m not eating kidney! So, when we had the discussion of menu items I [didn’t] know if that was such a good idea. But it brought in so many British customers. We have to keep them on [the menu] all of the time. I’ve had some older Brits come into the shop and say, “We’ve been here for 20 years. Providing this has made it complete. We’ve now got all of these tastes of home.”