Published on August 9th, 2013 | by Faye Penfold0
Pasty School – Choaks Pasties in Falmouth
For me, nothing quite says Cornwall like a wonderfully traditional Cornish Pasty and the minute I jump into my packed to the rafters little car in Somerset, I can practically taste that deliciously warm and tasty treat making my mouth water the entire journey down.
Heading down to the coast on holiday has been a life long tradition for me, from the rain soaked weeks spent playing cards in our trailer tent on a crude Cornish farm as children, trudging to the shower block in our flip flops dodging puddles of mud and cow pat, to the sun drenched evenings spent swimming in the sea and talking by candle light outside the tent until the early hours, Cornwall has my heart, and in no small part that’s down to the delicious ice creams, cream teas and the humble Cornish Pasty.
How fortunate then that I married a Cornish man, well a man of Cornish heritage at least on his father’s side, so now these holidays to the south occur with increasing regularity, and I couldn’t be more delighted. There have been times, I kid you not, where Mr P has demanded we stop immediately on passing the Devon border, he is a true Cornish man in that respect, to grab the first available pastry delicacy he can get his mitts on and I’ve had to lock the doors and put my foot down to charge on through to my favourite pasty shop in Cornwall! Choaks Pasties, in Falmouth.
It all started in 1948 when Joseph Henry and Magdalene Choak founded JH & M Choak’s bakery in the Wodehouse Bakery, formerly a Teddy Boy’s café, found in Mini Place, Falmouth. Having previously been an apprentice of the other famous Falmouth pasty family, Rowe’s, Choaks wanted their own place and have been open for business, making, in my opinion, the best Cornish Pasties available in Cornwall, ever since.
Choaks started life as a traditional bakery selling everything from daily loaves to iced buns, but as the inevitable romp of the supermarket killed of the independent bakery trade, they rolled with the punches and decided to specialise in making only pasties and in doing that current owner, and son of Joseph and Magdelene, Charles, has carved out a pretty nice life for himself.
Charlie loved the bakery from the outset and made his first pasty when he was just 6 years old. In 1960 they moved to the current premises on Killigrew Street and became the first bakery in Falmouth to have an open window to the passing public, and today, whilst we are there talking with Charles hoards of people stop and watch, most come in and buy and most he knows by name, quite a feat!
The traditions and techniques used by the Choak family have stood firm for three generations and whilst Charles teaches pasty school to hundreds every year the recipe he shares is ‘almost’ the same as the one they actually use in the shop, which is of course a closely guarded secret! Things really haven’t changed much at all, and Charlie still uses the same rolling pin used by his father all those years ago.
As Charlie regales us with stories from a time when he used to dive solo and hand catch lobsters in the bay around Falmouth, he crimps pasties without looking. This technique we later to get to try but clearly can’t compete with a lifetime’s worth of experience even with a wonderful teacher. The shop and kitchen is perfectly big enough to host a large class for pasty school, but I’m glad to have had the opportunity to meet Charlie in a smaller and more personal setting, he is a fantastic orator and the hour we spent in his company was a delight.
Crimping followed rolling, measuring and seasoning before our home made pasties are slid into the oven and we wait, our eyes never leaving the huge industrial ovens, for our home made pasties to finally finish their journey before we shovel them hungrily into our gobs! Delicious! Pasty school was an adventure and one I would happily repeat for the bargain price of just £10 a head, including your pasty. Being in Charlie Choaks’ company was a delight, he’s an engaging, warm and convivial man, who makes without a doubt the finest pasties in Cornwall.