March 9 2014 Latest news:
Donna-Louise Bishop, Reporter
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Celebrating National Chip Week, reporter DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP finds out not only what makes a good chippy tick but also the secret to cooking the perfect portion.
It’s been a long time coming but this week I officially went back to my (potato) roots by working a shift at my local chippy. At the age of 14 I spent my first summer job in a seaside fish and chip shop and although I was pleased to move on to something where I did not get my hands quite as messy, I have always missed that distinctive smell.
Not to mention the batter – or rather banter – which comes with the territory.
Kind enough to welcome me into their deep-fried haven were the team from The Three Cottage Fish Restaurant, in North Walsham. This little family had already been hard at work before my shift began at midday.
Even before 9am, owner, Dave Audley, had been prepping the potatoes ready for the peeler and chopper.
He is also a dab-hand at preparing the fish and is usually found slicing them up in readiness for the batter.
He said: “The customers are the best bit about working in a fish and chip shop. That’s what kept me in it for years – we like people. If you don’t then you are not in the right industry.
“When someone says to me they’ve just eaten the best meal they’ve ever had – it makes your day. You can’t touch a feeling like that.”
Things were in full swing when I arrived and already customers were queuing at the door, including regular John Etheridge, 51, of Stalham, who had even bought fish and chips the day before.
He said: “I am a coeliac so for me it is great coming here because I know I can get gluten-free fish and chips but that’s just one reason. They are the nicest people and some of the most hard-working people I have ever met.
“It’s this type of camaraderie that makes a good community fish and chip shop.”
I was bombarded by these types of comments throughout my shift but I knew it had to be more than good customer service which was bringing the punters back – I wanted to know what the grub was like.
Business partner Sam Homfray, 42, has worked in chip shops for more than 23 years.
He explained that the fat used in cooking the food had to be clean – in fact I notice the whole place was spotless.
As he talked me through the cooking process I was lost in the aroma of fresh fish, the satisfying crackle of the oil, the happy chuckles from customers while they waited.
Then within minutes my order was ready and taking the reins, Tim Ashdown, 22, showed me how to plate-up.
I soon got the hang of wrestling with the chip paper and offering salt and vinegar.
Tim, of Thorpe Market, has worked at the restaurant since 2009 but had to have time off in 2011 following a serious motorbike accident. He was told he would never walk again.
He said: “But I proved them wrong. Working here is not something I thought I would go into but I am able to do lots of different things here and I enjoy it. Everyone gets on really well.
“We have lots of regular customers who have their set days and set times to come in – it’s great.”
Before I knew it my shift was up and the moment I had been waiting for had finally come – I was about to be told the secret to creating the perfect chip.
A former president of the National Federation of Fish Fryers and a self-confessed cod addict, Dave knows his stuff. He said: “Fish and chips when cooked properly is good for you – it has around 10pc fat, less than some low fat foods, and it also has more vitamin C than an orange, and no additives or preservatives – it’s fresh. But the oil must be clean.
“Chips are the most filling food and they keep you feeling fuller for longer.
“It’s been the nation’s favourite meal for over a hundred years and it will be for another hundred.”
So whether it is a 90th birthday, an anniversary, or just a weekend treat - it seems the nation is in love with its fish and chips.