When we complained about a pasty brought in Tesco Swindon, we expected a letter of apology, but we also received an invite to the factory to see ‘how they do it’. So we ended up at the producer’s factory in Cornwall.

So what do you need to make a perfect pasty? There are five traditional elements: beef (normally beef skirt), potato, swede, onions and seasoning. At Rowe’s, they add a few extra secret ingredients. So secret you will not see them on the packet; however, I will list these later.

We were met by our host for the day, Sharon. After signing in, we were led to the boardroom and offered drinks. We also met the management and production teams. We had a chat about pasties, naturally, and about other products they produce. We were introduced to the production manager, Martin, then issued our PPE and hygienic clothing.

We made our way to the production floor where we followed their strict hygiene procedures. For those of us that like our pasties and sausage rolls, it was the equivalent of the chocolate factory.

We were shown where they receive the meat, how they check and tag it for tractability, then butcher and process it depending on the type of meat and cut.

Then we saw how the potatoes were received, washed, tumbled and diced. It was a similar process for the onions and swede. Nearly all the products were Cornish sourced, so the next time I eat a pasty, I know not only is it produced in Cornwall but helps support so many other Cornish farmers and businesses.

Our next stop was to be invited to take part in the daily taste testing. Here, they batch check everything from the final bake, the crimp, the pastry, its shape, how it looks and smells, how it’s filled and how it tastes. They leave nothing to chance, they record every comment and although some products are long-standing, they still seem to be striving for improvement. I was very impressed with the level of detail.

We then entered the factory floor and saw rows and rows of pastry that I assumed must be made off-site. No, it is all made on-site. They were producing sausage rolls and pasties. We were shown how they hand assemble and crimp each pasty. We had a go! Well, I think the target is 3-6 per minute, we took about 40 seconds for one! Several attempts later, we sort-of got there. None were passable, but it made the staff giggle.

On returning to the boardroom, I noted that staff were eating lunch, some eating pasties. Eating what you produce says a lot.

We had a very interesting day, and would like to thank all the Rowe staff.

Oh, I did promise secret ingredients. I think, apart from the confidence we both gained from how clean the factory was, the process etc., it was clear the secret is the staff and their togetherness. Yes, it’s a job, but you certainly got the impression that they enjoyed their work and their workmates. All the production team leaders were hands-on and there was a real ‘team effort’ feeling. If I was branding their products, I would add to the ingredients listing ‘a pinch of team passion’.