WHEN Holland’s decides to roll out a new product, the Blackburn company calls on larger-than-life celebrity chef Tom Bridge to create the king of pies.

For what the culinary genius doesn’t know about meaty fillings and crusty toppings isn’t worth knowing. Such is his passion that he founded his own Pie Society and, along with 21 other best-selling cookbooks, wrote a tome of the same name – a veritable enyclopaedia of traditional pies, puddings and pastries from across the British Isles.

Tom, 64, from Bolton, has recently developed a new Chicken Gravy pie. He’s also working on some closely-guarded secret products. But in pie-land good things come to those who wait.

So what makes Holland’s pies stand out from soggy pretenders? Tom reveals that the pastry recipe harks back to the days of 1940s rationing. It’s basically a flour and lard mix, no butter - that’s what gives it that delicious crispy texture and taste - and certainly no additives.

Here’s another gem of insider knowledge. “Contrary to what people may think, Holland’s puddings do not include suet. But if I tell you what the secret ingredient is you will have to kill me,” he jokes.

All this cloak and dagger stuff must be agony for such an entertaining raconteur, but Tom - who has fed the likes of Frank Sinatra, Freddy Mercury and David Niven during his career - has plenty of culinary tales to tell without divulging industry secrets.

He got involved in the food business from an early age. "My grandma and grandad started off in the beer and booze industry, then we had pubs in Bolton and my mother used to make food for the customers."

But as a young lad at school, his interest in cookery got him some serious stick from schoolmates, "Everybody used to call me fairy cakes." The last laugh was on Tom though, as he ended up in the cookery classes with the girls whilst the boys ended up doing woodwork.

He’s worked all over the world, has made innumerable TV appearances and has a CV to rival the Marcos and Gordons of the industry - The Midland, The Waldorf, The Cavendish, The Savoy, The National Liberal Club in Whitehall, Wembley Stadium.

In the Eighties he collaborated with bread baron Derek Warburton starting Peter Hunt’s bakery products. He even invented a staple of the Italian restaurant industry - The Calzone. “I developed the first pizza pastie. We were looking for a quirky new product. I filled it with cheese and pepperoni, but it didn’t take off at the time.”

But the highlight of his rich and varied career was getting a kiss from Marie Osmond when she was taking part in a show at Wembley. “I was totally in love with her at the time, so I found out what she liked to eat and made her a prawn and lobster cocktail on a croissant. As a tribute to her hit single Paper Roses I decorated it with roses made from tomato skins. Then I got a call summoning me to her dressing room. She thanked me and asked if I’d make her another later on. I said on condition, that I could steal a kiss.”

Buy when Tom dines out he doesn’t head for the latest Michelin-starred eaterie: “I love the Eggs Benedict at Frankie and Bennie’s. I’m a sad case aren’t I,” he laughs.

Married to Jayne, an overseas estate agent, the couple have two boys, Gareth and Matthew, who has a restaurant in Southport.