Hey everyone, thank you for your time on this lovely day. So, I bet you’re all thinking: solo podcast. Do I have to listen to Stelios for a whole hour?
No. That’s not the case. It’s just a quick update. We thought that you all deserved it, ’cause I’ve had lots of texts, emails, Facebook messages, everyone asking, oh, what’s the deal, what’s the deal? What’s happening?
So, we wanted to give you all a bit of an update. So, I am going to just go through some listener questions. They’ve put them up on Facebook, they’ve sent me text messages, and we’ll get on with that now.
So, why did the podcast come about?
That’s come about because, with some of the YouTube videos that we did, people wanted to ask more questions. We wanted to look at something where we could have a long-form conversation, and podcasts are perfect for that. The other good thing is that it doesn’t have to be as short as a YouTube video because you can just press pause and go on and do whatever else you were doing.
Most people have text me saying they’ve been listening whilst driving, whilst cutting their fish in the morning, doing their prep, or whatever it may be. It’s good that you just do it in your own time. Chill out and relax, and hopefully, you enjoy it and get something from it.
What type of people are we thinking of interviewing?
Hopefully more of the same. Ideally, we want people from within the food industry, fish and chip industry, hospitality, anyone that supplies any of this. We spoke to Andrew from the NFFF, we’re going to talk to someone from the Potato Board, someone from Sea Fish, MSC. If they’re willing to give up their time, we’ll travel to see them and get it done.
But every now and then, we also want to talk to somebody from the wider hospitality industry to get a feel for what they’re doing. I really think that we can learn from their story and today, on the same day, you’ll see we’re that releasing the Thomas Colombo podcast. He’s a mixologist and he’s doing something different, so I think that we can all learn from that.
What’s the best fish and chip shop that you’ve been to? Doesn’t matter your reasons, but one that’s really impressed you, and why.
Hmm. That’s a really difficult question. Really difficult. It sounds easy, but it’s not. I literally believe there’s no such thing as the best fish and chip shop, to someone like me. I visit far too many, it’s difficult to put a pin on it. But the word ‘best’ is probably used by people that visit what is truly their favourite, their local, the one they love going to the most. And so I’ve got a few I can cover, and here are my choices.
This is biased because I like these guys and I like the food they do, so one of my favourites is The Magpie Café in Whitby. I love their food, love the service, love the location. It hits the spot. The service is really good, and it just feels special. Colman’s is very good. I’ve been there a few times, and I do need to visit Colman’s Temple soon. But also Chez Fred in Bournemouth is up there, one of the best.
They’re all restaurants, they’re all sit-downs, and I tend to prefer my fish and chips on a plate. Maybe I’m posh, I get that. But as a takeaway, one shop that’s really surprised me is a small shop in Barnsley called Y-Pas. To many people, they drive past it and won’t take a second look, but you’d be a fool. This small fish and chip shop hardly sell’s pies, doesn’t sell kebabs, it’s hardly open, really. But when they are open, they’re always busy. And I think that it’s really important to not judge a book by its cover because I think the word ‘best’ covers so many different things. There’s great takeaways, great restaurants, so I wouldn’t just apply it to one fish and chip shop.
So, Danny, there’s no such thing to me as ‘best’ because I just see too many. I do know that many considered as the ‘best’ in our industry will be the first to tell you that they’re not the best, and they’re definitely not perfect. So, Danny, that’s my answer.
Andreas, this is a good question, although I don’t like answering these types of questions. How would a hard Brexit affect the industry in the short-term and long-term?
Well, I’m not a clairvoyant, so I don’t know is the answer. But there’s a few things that will probably be an issue. But the biggest thing is probably going to be free movement of people, which now disappears. That obviously affects staffing, and hospitality isn’t the most desirable job in the world to many, hence why it’s hard to find staff. So I think that’s probably where the government will need to focus their efforts. Make sure that, whether it’s a visa-based system and it’s a bit easier to come into the UK for those sort of jobs, but it is also worth noting that unemployment in the UK is around 4%. That’s 1.36 million people, give or take, so that means that there’s also lots of people who are allowed to be in the UK, that live over here, that can take those jobs. And I do think that hospitality is a good sector for those people, but I think we, as an industry, the hospitality sector, probably has to do more as well.
Overall, I think it’s best not to speculate. I think it’s best just to wait and see which option the UK takes. The truth is, no one actually knows what the outcome’s going to be. But thanks for that question, Andy, I knew that was probably going to come from you.
So, question from Imran. Well, actually, there was five questions from Imran, with four sub-questions, but I’ve chosen one because some of the questions you asked are probably going to be covered in the next few podcasts, so we’ve got some plans there. So, I’m dealing with this question: what do you think is the next big thing for fish and chips?
Well, it’s a difficult one, because, again, it’s such a wide-ranging question. But I’m going to focus on one answer. My opinion, the next big thing for fish and chips, is great fish and chips. And I know that sounds silly, but it’s actually pretty true. Customers now are wanting the best for their money. Whatever it is. And I think the way to do that sometimes is to be niche. You can’t do everything, it’s physically impossible. And you can’t do everything great.
So, I think we’re starting to see a lot of green shoots from great operators that are focusing on fish and chips and seafood. I know it’s hard if you’ve already got a business model that doesn’t have that, but I think that the simplicity, and the smaller menu, and the tag of artisan or specialist, I think that really can help. And I think that that’s probably what’s helping some shops.
Totally get if that’s not your business plan, it doesn’t work, but I think that that is probably what I would say the next big thing for fish and chips. So, rather than going broader, bring it in and make it more niche.
Thanks for that question, Imran, and like I said, some of the other questions that you asked will be covered in future podcasts.
Question from Nick. What is the best oil/fat for frying?
Right, that’s an interesting question. I’m not going to go into brands, because I’m not like that, but let’s talk about the two different answers.
Looking at it from a really technical point of view, I would say it depends what you want from a fryer medium. If you want longevity, stability, and a really crisp product, I would say you need to be looking for a medium with a high-saturated fat content. I think saturated fat will form with the fried product and create bonds with the carbohydrate. That gives you a really crispy, firm product, which is nice.
The downside with most saturated fats is that they will solidify on the product. It can give a bit of an aftertaste and palette cling, and that probably goes back to why hot tea is consumed with fish and chips in the olden days. And also a notable recipe is that McDonald’s had, back in the day, used to use beef dripping or tallow, and they used to mix that with cotton-seed oil, so that would give them the robustness from the saturated fat but not so much the palette cling because of the cotton-seed oil.
But one thing I would say if you can’t or don’t want to use saturated fat, or an oil high in saturated fat, the next option is to use an oil high in mono-unsaturated fat. There are a few good choices. If you talk to your wholesalers, they’ll give you some choices there, or just message me.
But the oils to really avoid are oils that are high in polyunsaturates. They break down really fast and they can be inflammatory, and they also have a high build-up of aldehydes. So it’s definitely worth avoiding anything high in polyunsaturates.
Secondly, and probably the easy way to look at it, is what are others using locally? So, for example, if you’re in a part of Yorkshire and everyone’s using beef dripping, you’ve got two choices. You can use beef dripping because everyone else does, or you can use one of the others above that I mentioned and be different. You’ve got to take the risk or at least just think about it carefully. I think that you don’t have to do what everyone does locally, but if you don’t want to look it from a technical point of view, you can look at it from that point of view as well, and that should help you out and get you along.
Two questions from Sarah, but they’re one, essentially. Well, they’re all on the same lines. Question one. Oh, I’ll just put it all together. Is there a list of planned interviews and topics for the future, and do you take suggestions?
The easy answer is, we probably won’t publish a list of who we’re going to interview, but we will try and follow interesting topics or relevant topics of the moment. And do we take suggestions? Why not. We want you to care, we want your feedback, we want everything. And that’s from everybody. So send it back, we’re happy to take it on, and see what we can do.
But as for any interesting topics, you just send it our way and we’ll see what we can do with that.
Do you have any podcast recommendations I can listen to?
Yes, I listen to a lot of podcasts because I’m on the road a lot, and I would recommend Freakonomics by Stephen Dubner. Really good podcast that makes you think about the hidden aspects of decisions that are made or even the consequences of something that happened. Really good and worth listening to.
The Bottom Line by Evan Davis is a great business show. It’s BBC podcast and it’s really good.
A really good one is season one and two of the Revisionist History by Malcolm Gladwell.
These are three great podcasts to get you started. Let me know what you think of them.
Last question from Grace. Do you have any book recommendations?
Yes. I read a lot of books, and I have a lot of books and it’s worth recommending. One book that got recommended to me was from Marcus French. He’s got a shop in Wells-next-the-sea, Norfolk, and he might have even bought me a copy of this book, and it’s Freakonomics by Stephen Dubner. And that’s how I got to know about the podcast, from the book, and it’s a really good book. It’s very easy to read and it’s just really interesting. Again, it’s about the hidden economics behind decisions and the consequences of them. That book is really cheap now, everyone can get it from anywhere, so get that book.
But if you were going to buy one book today, and you’re in the food industry, I would say it’s Grinding It Out by Ray Kroc, and he was the founder of McDonald’s as we know it today. I read it a lot, and over and over again, when I had the fish and chip shop when I worked for my dad, and there’s no reason why not to buy that book. I think it’s £6 new, and it should be a good book to start on if you’re in the food industry.
So those are my book choices.
On that note, everyone, I’d like to put this to bed. Have a great Christmas and a great New Year. I look forward to all your feedback, and that’s it. Don’t eat too much chocolate! Catch you later.