In just over a month, Australian eatery KO Catering & Pies has created quite the cult-like following in South Boston. Australians and locals alike are traveling from all over the city to try the authentic savory meat pies, which can be ordered individually or in bundles. The palm-sized pastries, often stuffed with beef or vegetables, aren’t the only Aussie staples being offered at the tiny storefront located on A Street. Their menu also includes favorites like chicken schnitzel burgers, sausage rolls, Vegemite and of course some shrimp on the barbie. Serving up “brekky”, lunch and dinner three days a week, KO plans to launch the first Australian food truck in the U.S. come Spring. I had the pleasure of catching up with owner and chef Sam Jackson and co-founder Kara Butterfield to talk pies, trucks and brekky.
What is an Australian meat pie?
It’s a savory meat filling encased by a buttery, flaky, pastry crust. For us, it’s a taste of home.In Australia everyone eats them, they’re our workingman’s comfort food. If you go to a football match, you’ll see everyone in the stands eating meat pies. It’s like the US equivalent of a hot dog.
I read that you’ve travelled a lot, even lived on Yachts! What made you decide to move to Boston and start the business?
I have been coming to Boston since 1992 and have always loved the history, love of sports and toughness of the people. There’s such a rich mix of culture and ethnic diversity. After working on private yachts for 5 years, a previous yacht owner asked me to take on a position on land. Once settled here, I realized that the pie/Australian food business was what I wanted to do. Now that I’m here I love the seasons and more importantly I love the direction the city is taking with food. There are so many more restaurants and chefs getting into seasonal, local produce.
“And with the food truck scene just starting to take off, this seems like a great time to be in this great city.”
Tell me more about KO’s food truck. Where is it? When can we expect to see it?
We have the truck, which we had originally planned to open first. The shop was more of an afterthought. After culinary school I travelled a lot, I’m used to moving around so the truck seemed like a great idea. After I purchased the truck, the momentum continued for a take away shop when we realized we needed a production kitchen. Take away food is as popular in Australia as it is here, so we decided to use the kitchen space as a small eatery and catering service. For us the food truck is the perfect way to get our food to as many corners of Boston, Cambridge and Somerville as possible. I understand how busy everyone is, and I also cannot expect everyone to make the trip to Southie, so the truck will allows us to take the pies to the people.
Why did you pick Southie as the location for your shop?
We were fortunate to find a small restaurant and purchase their equipment at a time that suited the outgoing owners. It provided us with the ideal space to convert into a take away food shop. The location is the main artery between the growing neighborhoods of Fort Point Channel, Seaport District and Southie. The great thing about our location is that it is right at the edge of this melting pot of local legend establishments as well as up and coming projects. We’ve certainly felt very welcome by the neighborhood and it’s residents and business owners as well.
What’s this I hear about Aussie’s lining up around the block for your meat pies?
(Laughs) There really isn’t a very big Aussie population in Boston. We’ve been getting a great response from locals; which tend to be primarily Irish and students in the area, but I’d say only 10% or our clientele are over excited Aussies.
And you guys serve breakfast, or should I say “brekky” 7 days a week. Is that a popular meal in Australia?
Brekky is very popular and it is my favorite meal! I don’t know if it is because of the weather in Sydney or not but brekky is a massive part of our food culture. The weekend is planned around meeting friends at a local cafe for a leisurely brunch and reading the newspaper.
“The decision was made early on for our brekky to be reflective of that, with the menu we created – of course, Vegemite is on it.”
I noticed you’ve been quite the force on twitter recently; have you found using social media to be successful when promoting KO?
KB – When opening a new, culturally unique business there are a lot of interesting things that happen during the course of the day. Social networking helps us engage with our customers to share the story, listen to their feedback, and have a laugh even if they are unable to come into the shop for a yarn. Connecting with freelance writers and local food bloggers has been highly successful. Story ideas have been generated and connections made more quickly than by using more traditional marketing tools such as a press release.
SJ – Kara has been amazing on utilizing twitter. It seemed a bit too much about nothing to me but now that I get regular customers coming in asking/ talking about things they have read on twitter I have learnt to shut up and go with it.
So what’s next for KO?
We’re thinking of starting up “Pie of the Month,” offering a different special each month, along with the five flavors we already have.
“I’m thinking lamb and rosemary, beef and mushroom, maybe we’ll even do a fourth of July special filled with hot dogs and baked beans.”
Lastly, if you could tell American’s one thing about meat pies what would it be?
They’re excellent as to-go items. Everything is packaged so it can be eaten on the move. I can’t emphasize enough how great the catering is. The food here is perfect for serving local businesses and lunch meetings.
Visit Jacki Morisi’s food blog at Just Add Cheese.