They're not super common in the Twin Cities, but maybe you've seen them on the Great British Baking Show: crumbly pastry crusts stuffed with hearty filling, traditionally beef and veggies. You'll find them on Minnesota's Iron Range, too; historically a miner's food, the Cornwall, UK-invented savory pies are a meaty godsend in places where the days are long, wet, and cold, and the work is hard.
They look something like this:
At least, the ones from Dinkytown's Lands End Pasty Company do. And soon, that little pocket of sustenance will compete on an international scale: Lands End is headed to Cornwall itself to compete in the World Pasty Championships on Saturday, March 2. (Or Saturday, 2 March, if you want to be properly British about it.)
Lands End is a pint-sized operation: Its only employees are Jon Earl, who does most of the cooking, and nephew Peter Jacobson, who handles the front. It got its start when Jon started taking yearly trips to visit a friend in the UK. Already a passionate baker since youth, he dug the pasties he had in England, but they were harder to find in the Twin Cities. So, he started making them—bringing batches to work and testing them out on his coworkers.
As he perfected his recipes, Jon started thinking about opening a place, and he asked Peter to join him. They opened their "tiny little restaurant" (Peter's words) at the end of Dinkytown Mall in 2014.
"One really nice thing about it being just us is that we have been able to really get to know a lot of our regular customers and we have made a ton of friends along the way," Peter says. "People that have since graduated and moved out of the area will still make special trips to come visit us and hang out, and we have many different groups of students that will stop by on a weekly basis to watch a 'Britcom' and visit with us."
Why do these Minnesotans think they have a shot in the birthplace of pasty? Well, because they're taking a taste of Minnesota (and other food cultures) with 'em. "We are going to be bringing our chicken wild rice, venison, and jerk chicken varieties," Jacobson explains. "The chicken wild rice will be a nice taste of Minnesota for the judges and probably will be something they have never tried before." He also has high hopes for the jerk chicken pasty, which uses a fiery hot sauce from local Caribbean restaurant Harry Singh's.
Jacobson says they're both a bit nervous for the competition: "It took a long time for it to sink in that we are actually going. We work at the restaurant for about 70 to 80 hours a week, and it's a bit weird to think that we will be doing something other than being at the shop." He knows they'll be up against a lot of talented Cornwall companies and some of the globe's best pasties masters. "But there have been several winners from around the world in the past. Last year, a company in Virginia took home one of the titles."
A GoFundMe to get the uncle-nephew duo to Cornwall has already surpassed its goal, but you can still donate here for the next several days if you want to help pay their way to, from, and in the U.K.
And if you want to try a potentially globally recognized pasty, you'd better act fast. Lands End will close February 28th until March 11th for the competition. Otherwise, you'll have to drop in when they reopen the 12th—hopefully, with a World Pasty Championship trophy on display.