Our reporter joined a leading Cardiff charity as they kick off events for their 30th anniversary with 800 pies.
As chaotic kitchen staff rushed to heat up 800 pies, a line of hungry and hopeful contestants took their seats at the competitor’s table.
The six contestants in each round looked serious as the stopwatch started and they had 10 minutes to chow down as many of the minced beef and onion pies as possible.
More than 25 people entered the event and organisers were on hand to make sure buckets were nearby in case the pies decided to make a reappearance
The event, hosted by Cardiff charity George Thomas Hospice Care, saw a satisfied winner come out top after guzzling 7 pies – more than one every two minutes.
The contest, at Walkabout, St Mary Street, was just one of many events organised by the charity to mark their 30th anniversary this year.
George Thomas Hospice Care is one of the major providers of home-based palliative cancer care in Cardiff and looks after more than 1,000 people each year.
Events Manager at George Thomas, Nicky Piper, said the charity still faces huge challenges despite its 30 year history.
He said: “The economic climate is a real challenge. We need to raise over £1.2million every year just to fund our core services and events like this are very important.
“Referrals are going up, the rates of cancer are increasing so we have to deal with far more patients. That is a big challenge.”
But despite growing numbers of referrals from GPs and hospitals, former champion boxer Mr Piper said the charity does not refuse treatment to anybody.
“We care for everybody that gets referred to us. That’s our philosophy, we never turn anybody away.”
Gareth Jones is one of the hospice’s 400 volunteers who was entering the contest.
He said: “I work for the centre so I have a good knowledge of what we do and where the money goes. I raised about £140 last year so if I can meet that again I’ll be very happy.”
The charity, which has six shops across Cardiff, Barry and Penarth, is hoping to raise up to three thousand pounds from the pie-eating contest.
Claire Conway, Marketing Manager for Peter’s Pies who donated the pies, said: “We do a lot for charity as we like to support the communities that support us. All profits go to George Thomas. It’s the biggest event of the year so far for us.”
But for some contestants, the night is mainly about the pies.
Llewelyn Smith, from Newport, did the event last year and has practised for the contest.
He said: “I did practise with one yesterday and it took me 56 seconds. Bearing in mind that was cold so obviously if they’re warm they won’t be as stodgy so it will go down nicer and quicker.”
Mr Smith, who has raised more than £100 for the charity, managed to beat his last year personal best of four-and-a-half pies with seven.
The current reigning champion, Welsh Olympic swimmer Ieuan Lloyd, also returned to try and defend his title.
When asked if he was feeling prepared, Mr Lloyd said: “I’m not an expert on eating pies if I’m honest. When it comes to swimming I know what I’m doing. I think I’m just going to go all out.”
For charity volunteers, the event is hugely important in raising much-needed funds.
Their work is holistic, meaning the focus is not simply on the final stages but on patients’ pain management and quality of life.
The charity also works with occupational therapists, physiotherapists, social workers and welfare rights officers to help whole families.
Cardiff volunteer Phil Redmund said: “We have lots of events throughout the year. Charity balls, fayres and walks. There’s something every month.”
For near-winner Mr Smith who managed to eat a pie in 33 seconds, the event is ideal for him.
“It’s a good cause. The fact I can get to eat as many pies as I want or can for free whilst at the same time raising funds for a good cause, it’s great.”