Interview with Cologne’s Pie Man – Richard Crighton

In preparation for our home tournament in October 2021, we wanted to provide our players, supporters and guests with some tasty hot food from some local businesses and keep everything Covid-compliant. The idea came up in the Committee group to invite a local businessman with the nickname „the Pie Man“. With matches happening at Chorweiler, Richard turned up and sold his pies at the side of the pitch and thus began the Celtics‘ collaborations with him.

Richard has delivered his delicious pies to our training sessions and came along to conduct business in Düsseldorf for the German Hurling and Camogie Cups. We are looking forward to more projects together over time.

In this interview, we find out how a designer based in London ended up selling pies in Cologne. We will also learn about some Crighton family history concerning an unplanned pregnancy, a lord, a pub and a family recipe!

If you would like to taste some of Richard’s delicious pies; make sure to check out his website at pie-haus.de.

Here is the interview in full – including an unexpected phone call in the middle of the conversation!

Full chat with Richard Crighton

So Richard, can you introduce yourself to us?

Yes. My name is Richard Crighton. I’m from London but originally from Birkenhead up in Cheshire. Our family actually stretches back into Cork, Ulster, Scotland and Wales. So totally British (and Irish).

Brought up in London, and now I’m in Cologne. So there you go.

How did you end up living in Cologne?

Let’s call it a matrimonial miscalculation.

 That’s kind of why I’m here. I’m here to make sure my girls have me around, which might be welcome or unwelcome. I don’t know.

How long have you been living in Cologne?

Eleven years now.

The Cologne Celtics and Pie-Haus Colonia

Okay. Eleven years! What has been the highlight of your time living in Cologne?

Oh, my God. That’s a good question. Yeah. Well, I suppose because I’m a musician as well. So I played some fairly interesting gigs with a lot of good musicians here. But when Covid came in, that kind of ended. Yeah. A lot of fun doing that.

What sort of music do you play?

Well, sort of funk, jazz, rock, kind of punk, all sorts of things. Lots of different sorts of music. A bit of Latin here and there.

Yeah. Do you play an instrument?

I’m a drummer. It’s sort of an instrument but more like a weapon.

Stress-relieving, I guess. We have musicians in our group with the Celts.

So what have you seen as the differences between living life in Cologne compared to London? What would be the main differences you’ve seen or experienced?

It’s a lot slower here. It’s a lot smaller, and it’s a lot safer. London is really expensive and dangerous, but it’s a high life, but here in Cologne, it’s much, much slower.

I mean, I was a designer in London. Working for the sort of ad agencies and big design groups, but there’s none of that here. And this is why I now make pies.

Yes. I was about to ask you about that. You went from designing work and marketing to pies. How did that come about?

After about four and a half, five years, I concluded that there wasn’t a real design industry here. So I thought, what the hell am I going to do? I’ve got these two girls to look after. So I remember I just sort of woke up in the middle of the night and went pies because you can’t buy pies. This doesn’t exist here.

That was when was 2017, probably even earlier, about 2016/17, something like that. I just thought, well, let’s do this because I’ve always cooked since I was in my early 20s. One of my previous amours, she taught me to cook. She was Belgian, and that’s where I started. And I never really looked back, to be honest. So I’ve moved from one sort of creativity into another.

Cathedral-themed pies in Cologne

There was a family connection to pies as well, wasn’t there?

My great-grandmother was the head cook in a house in Wales just over from Birkenhead, where we used to live. She was Irish, and she actually cooked for the Lord of the Manor and all this kind of thing. Rather, unfortunately… and this is going back a long time, well over 100 years ago – the son of the Lord managed to get her pregnant.

So, of course, back then, it was a terrible disgrace. A lowly cook and the son of the Lord. The Lord’s number one son!

What they did is they paid her off; they bought her a pub down by the docks in Birkenhead. And what would happen is every month, a carriage would come down from the house and hand over a bag of money and then go back to the Manor house.

That’s a part of the family history. It’s quite interesting. As you can see, cooking goes way back in the family.

Some St. Patrick’s Day treats!

Yeah, wow! Were the recipes then passed on through the family lines?

Well, I mean, English cooking is just heritage. I cook a mean roast dinner. Plus, when I was a designer in London, I used to design many restaurant concepts and interiors and menus and stuff like that with cooks and even some Michelin star chefs.

This experience was very interesting because what they do is they design a menu, and then they get their kitchen to cook it, and then they bike it all over to us, and we’d score it out of ten. Then we’d come up with the whole concept, then design the interior, design the brand, and come up with all the brand values.

It was all sorts of food; it could be anything. It could be Indian, it could be robatayaki, it could be anything!

Well, you know, we did a lot of stuff around Westminster, so we’d have a lot of really high profile MPs (Members of Parliament) and government people going to our restaurants there. So I’ve got quite a lot of experience in that field when it comes to coming to the idea of pies!

Okay, cool. So you’re saying that the idea just came to you one evening to make pies as a business?

Well, because I’ve been making for about sort of 20 years, 15/20 years, on and off at dinner parties and things like that. And they always went down fantastically. Well, yeah, I seem to be doing what I do best, yes. So if I could kind of commercialize it, as it were, then perhaps make it work.

It seems to have caught on, so I am very happy about that.

Brilliant. It’s nice to make something you’re passionate about into a business.

Well, totally. I mean, same with my design. I was always that way inclined. I turned my hobby into my career, which was great fun.

Yeah. Okay, cool. I guess you’re freelancing in this business (I was meant to say sole trader, not freelancing)… You’re your own boss?

Yeah. That’s basically the deal. It’s registered at the start. Yeah. It’s all fully legit.

How was it setting up your own business in Germany? How was that process?

Remarkably easy. It’s not for bigger companies or anything like that, but on the lower levels, it’s very straightforward. You just turn up at the right office with €20, and you fill out the paperwork, and they stamp it, and you go away again. That’s it. I’m not even sure what status I am, but it’s all above board.

Very straight. Surprisingly straightforward.

I thought the dreaded German bureaucracy would come into it.

Well, yeah, but this is amazing. It’s amazingly straightforward. So I advise anybody who wants to do it to do it.

Yeah. Excellent.

Not pies, but something else. Pies are my market!

Who would be the primary customers that you would have for Pie-Haus Colonia?

It’s changed quite a lot because of Covid and all this kind of stuff. First off, I started literally just driving around the pubs. I’d make the pies, put them in my little truck, and drive around Cologne on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and just sell them because the streets were full. It’s not that long ago, and it feels like a lifetime ago.

The Pie-Mobile! Cologne Cathedral in the background.

But then Covid came in, and that kind of wiped out the market for about a year. And then things started to open up again. So I have started doing that again.

But the market had changed. I also targeted offices. So if they were going to have some big kind of meeting, they would order 30 pies, and I’d turn up, give them pies and go, yeah, very simple stuff. But again, that was something that was slightly wiped out by the Covid pandemic.

But now it’s all coming back. Masks have gone. But the market has changed quite a bit. I do a lot of home delivery. You’ll see on the website that there’s a means of ordering where you pay via PayPal, or you can pay cash on delivery (COD), and you can order a minimum of four between two different time slots on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I’m thinking of extending that, but generally speaking, that’s what’s happening now.

I get people who order 10, 20 and 30 pies at a time just chuck them in the freezer. Because that’s absolutely the easiest thing on Earth, isn’t it? No cooking. You just whack it in the oven, and it’s done.

It was pretty nice getting pies delivered to us on a cold and wet December morning in Nippes!

Ideal for a home party as well or a dinner party.

Oh, yeah, I do quite a few of those. I mean, around Karneval, usually home parties. So you’ll be dropping off 20/30 at a time.

But what I’ve found more of that is becoming more convenient is to start delivering to small to medium-sized supermarkets and restaurants and cafeterias, tea cafes, and places like that. I think that’s what I’m going to be spreading into. So to actually just treat it like it’s a real, proper grown-up product and design the packaging, get it properly packaged with all the legal requirements resolved and sell it in bulk.

Yeah, excellent. So that would be a more prefered route than, say, opening a place – a café or a restaurant – on one of the streets in Cologne?

Yeah, it’s fraught with difficulty because trying to find a place in the first place is impossible. Finding the right place is almost completely impossible. Then you’ve got staff, you’ve got overheads, you’ve got rent, you’ve got electricity bills. It just ends up becoming it could happen at some point in the future, but for now, no, I don’t think so.

Unless it’s in a prime retail area, like Zülpicher around there or maybe Breslauerplatz or even Nippes.

But for now, I think I’ll just expand into vegan supermarkets and that kind of thing.

Okay. You have a new website: Pie-Haus.de. How is that working for you?

That does really well, and it works really well. It’s so dead easy, you see no thinking required, and you can pay online or COD it. So I’ll just show up and give you pies and go away again. That’s it.

Brilliant. You were saying you have family connections to Ireland. Have you been over?

Oh, yeah, I’ve been to Dublin a couple of times. Wonderful. Love it there. But they’re not family connections because the family that was there is scattered all over the place. Loads of Crightons are over Scotland, Liverpool, Ireland and other places.

We’re not really in touch with the old Irish side because you’re going back a long time. At least a century. Apparently, there is some contact, but I don’t know; I never see it.

Yeah, okay, great. Cool. I think that is everything down here. We’re getting new facilities soon, so we won’t be training in the park too much longer. We’ve got proper facilities sourced, so I think we will be in contact soon with you!

Excellent.


Thanks, Richard for giving us your time. We look forward to more projects in the future!

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