When the Oktem family took over Packet Bridge, the day-to-day management of the shop fell very quickly to 19-year-old Cem. With no previous knowledge of fish and chips, it didn’t take him long to realise the best way forward was to learn from those with experience.
“We made a lot of mistakes to start off with, thinking off the tops of our own heads,” he comments. “It was only really when I started getting involved in the Drywite Young Fish Frier Competition and doing frying courses at KFE and the NFFF that I learned proper best practice methods and implemented these changes at Packet Bridge.”
One of the first improvements Cem made – who we should add made it to the finals of the Drywite Young Fish Frier Competition two years in a row – was to switch the ingredients he inherited from the previous owner for top quality ones, changing the grading of the fish, for example, and moving to Ceres’ Natural Batter Mix, Chip Shop Gravy Mix and Curry Sauce, as well as Natural Pea Seasoning.
“You can make good fish and chips but if you’re pouring a poor curry sauce, gravy or peas over the top of it you’re going to ruin that product, so it’s so important that the quality of the peas, curry and gravy is right.”
He adds: “Ceres batter, the curry sauce, the gravy and the pea seasoning are just really, really good products. It’s one of those things, they’ve never failed us so we’ve never felt the need to change anything. The batter works well with our oil, the curry we get loads of good reports about and it’s one of the main sellers at the new shop now.”
With the business going from strength to strength, Cem and his brother have opened a second shop, Westgate Fish & Chips. Completely renovating the shop and implementing the same practices and procedures in place at Packet Bridge, the pair hope to create another success story. But with two shops to run now, Cem faces a new challenge: maintaining standards and consistency when he’s not there.
“With working over two shops now, you’ve got to find things that make life easy when you are not around and that ensure things are being done properly when you’re not there,” he remarks.
“We go for quality, that’s the main thing, and consistency. So everything gets measured out – the water, the amount of flour we are using – so that whoever is making the batter, the curry sauce, the gravy, it’s consistent every single time.
So, will two shops lead to more, we ask? “The sky’s the limit, isn’t it?” Cem replies. “I’d love to open more and more shops but it’s all about the personnel that you put in those shops. You’ve got to get the staff right to make sure things are being done properly because I can’t be in five or six places at once. So we shall see.”
If you like what you have read about Cem Oktem, then why not listen to Stelios & Cem talk about the fish & chip trade for free on the Ceres Podcast.