Young Fish Fryer Tom in the Spotlight
Article Date: 2013-09-30
Hard work really does pay off.
Here is an article from Plymouth^s The Herald regarding NFFF member and Young Frier Tom Hughes, who has made it into the top five in the Drywite Young Fish Friers of the Year competition, run by Seafish.
WHEN student Tom Hughes was planning a career, little did he know his future lay in fish and chips.
He went to university to study sport and exercise science, but found himself working at Tesco as a fishmonger.
His break came when Sarah Lock, the sister of a school friend, invited him to run a fish-and-chip shop she owned.
Tom took to the job like a fillet to batter, and at the age of 21 he was asked to run Harbourside Fish and Chips on a prime site on the Barbican.
Three years later, he is rated among the top five young fish-and chip friers in the whole of the UK.
He has been shortlisted in the Drywite Young Fish Frier of the Year Award category at the 2014 National Fish & Chip Awards, organised by Seafish, the industry authority on seafood.
In January he will go up against the four other contenders at the awards ceremony at the Lancaster London hotel.
Tom said: "If I won the title, it would be hugely lucrative from a business perspective and great publicity for the shop.
"I would become an ambassador for the industry and my values, helping other young people.
"But I never thought this would turn into a career."
Tom said owners Sarah Lock and Phil Thompson gave him free rein and allowed him the freedom to run the shop according to his vision.
But that involves dedication and long hours.
The day starts at 7am with four hours of preparation before opening from 11am-11pm every day, 364 days a year.
Cleaning up the shop for the next day takes a further hour.
Tom works most days, and even on his days off comes in for a few hours to ensure everything is perfect.
The fish, mostly cod and haddock from Norway, arrives in 2lb blocks of fillets which have to be reduced to portions averaging 6.5 ounces.
The catch is cleaned and filleted at sea and frozen within two hours, but the processors miss the odd bone and Tom has to ensure none end up in the finished product.
"We are looking for uniformity," he said.
"A bit of knife work is involved, but it^s down to touch and experience.
"I^ve done a lot of training courses around the country and I^m pretty organised.
"You have to be dedicated in this job; there is five hours of preparation a day, and you can^t take your eye off the ball."
Tom said being a top frier took a combination of science and judgement to ensure a perfect and consistent product.
"We cook everything to order in no more than 15 minutes," he said. "It^s not good enough for people to wait half an hour when they could have cooked at home in that time.
"The food industry continued to grow during the recession, and we were busier than ever last year.Fish and chips is the traditional British takeaway.
"The ingredients are natural and clean, you know where they have come from and you know what you are eating."