Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, December 2021
Photos and Story by Gail G. Collins
Mining is a risky and challenging occupation. It also becomes the lifeblood of towns or regions creating legacy employment. In the 1200s, Cornwall England’s men mined tin, and their wives and mothers fed them well. They packed lunchboxes with a meat and vegetable pastry — called a pasty (pah-stee) — crimping the edges to seal it. The nourishing handholds contained a savory and sweet filling on either end with an initial to mark the difference. The miners were covered in arsenic, so the crimped edge provided a safe handle and was discarded afterward, but not wasted. Those edges kept the “knockers” or ghosts of the mines away.
Growing up in Saltash Cornwall, Dean Thomas consumed pasties five days a week, and on Fridays, his Nan (grandmother) indulged him. Pasties are filling and portable, so have retained their appeal. That said, some things can be improved upon, and Thomas set about doing so in 2005.
With formal culinary training and a decade of U.S. experience, he opened the Cornish Pasty Co. in 2005. Showcasing the classic pasty, the Oggie, he found success from the start. Thomas grew the menu for choice-loving Americans, expanding the brand with five Phoenix-area locations along with restaurants in Flagstaff, Las Vegas and Boston.
The brand champions consistent, superior ingredients and employee-to-partnership careers. Ryan Hays is the Flagstaff example. With an industry background, he began working for Thomas 11 years ago, advancing from server to manager to owner. Workers learn the ropes, respect the brand and are rewarded with company investment.
“Longtime employees keep up the pride and values in prepping the food, and that quality translates to customers,” said Hays of the Flagstaff shop, which opened in 2017.
Word-of-mouth advertising garners local trust and regulars, who Hays credits with keeping the lights on. Name recognition aids the tourist trade and a good measure of hospitality industry referrals.
The scratch kitchen makes dressings, soups, gravies, pastry and bread daily. Meats are roasted in-house.
“The only things in our freezer are ice cream and peas,” Hays joked.
Continue reading “Matters of Taste: Cornish Pasty Co.”