Chefs set for pasty championships

Competitors from across the globe are expected to descend on Cornwall on Saturday to pit their culinary wits for the World Pasty Championships.

More than 100 professional and amateur bakers are heading to the Eden Project to compete in the second annual celebration of the dish.

The pasty is culturally and historically important to the West Country, and was favoured by miners who used the crimp as a handle to eat while working underground.

In 2011 Cornish pasties joined a growing list of Europe's privileged foods whose names are protected from imitation.

It means only pasties made in Cornwall can claim to be "Cornish pasties" - typified by being crimped on the side. However, some people dispute whether the delicacy - of meat, potato, onion and turnip in a pastry casing - originates from Cornwall or neighbouring Devon.

This year's championships are the first since the so-called pasty tax came into force.

Chancellor George Osborne originally announced plans at the Budget to raise £110 million by levying 20% VAT on hot baked goods. The move prompted a huge outcry, with critics accusing ministers of waging class warfare against pasty eaters.

Mr Osborne later staged a partial climbdown, following a campaign by local newspaper the Western Morning News, by exempting products that are left to return to "ambient temperatures" on shelves in bakeries and supermarkets.

Among the competitors on Saturday will be Cornwall-born Mike Amery, who is so passionate about the pasty he has flown from his home in Pennsylvania to source his ingredients fresh from a farm before preparing what he hopes will be the perfect pasty. Mr Amery said: "Anyone in Cornwall knows that the pasty and the folklore around it ignite so much passion. Pasty-making is like a religion and the World Pasty Championships is in a sense judgment day."

Also competing will be Billy Deakin of Mount Hawke in Cornwall, winner of last year's amateur category. This year he will be baking a Caribbean-style creation with oxtail, sweet potato and blended spices, as well as a traditional pasty. Graham Cornish, who won the Cornish Pasty Professional and Open Savoury Professional categories last year, will be attending, but rather than competing, he will be giving visitors the opportunity to sample his prize-winning pasties.