Good Evening all who take the time to read my fish blogs.
There are just almost 20 days to go before the British Fish Craft Championships. All my long suffering family, friends and work colleagues have had to put up with my counting down to the day for weeks! Even my friends who make up this year’s team representing Tesco have been light heartedly ribbing me about the reminders, at least I think light heartedly!!
The fact remains though, that The Fish Crafts is important not only to me and the other fishmongers showcasing their trade, but also to the trade itself and the federation and the spectators who come along to see the main event.
Last year was my first time ever competing. Nervous was whole new level! If you’ve read my past blog regards my training and sign off, you’ll be aware that nervousness is part of me, but this was something else!!
I was extremely privileged to have been a part of the Tesco Team last year. I got to be a part of the amazing team who are not only fantastic fishmongers but also my closest friends, despite them being in different parts of the country, literally from Scotland to Cornwall and in between!
I was even nervous on the way to The Grimsby Sea School, where we had a whole day practicing our categories! We were to be watched over by Mr. Gary Hooper. Mr. Hooper was the one to devise the gold training for fishmongers, and the one to whom we went to for the best fish advice. And this was the first time I would be meeting him. And yes I was nervous!! I automatically thought that all my knowledge and skill would go straight out of the window and I wouldn’t even remember how to pick up a filleting knife. So, if Mr.Hooper reads this, I was so nervous meeting you Gary!!!
After being in the training room for about 1 hour, I was totally hooked. I was surrounded by friends who were all working to 1 goal and helping each other and I knew it was going to be an outstanding weekend. By the end of the day we were all disgusting! We were covered in fish scales, fish guts, the lot. It was a good job that we warned the hotel staff!!
On the Saturday of the weekend,there were filleting demonstrations, shellfish prepping and little fishmonger challenges. The fishmongers are seasoned competitors and judges in the competition itself. It was mesmerising to watch the masters at work.
There was also a fish stall and I had the sheer joy of helping to sell all the fish which we had prepped on the training day to the public. It felt like running my own stall and I had never been so happy! Again, another day went by and the fish aroma was strong! Myself and team mate Gavin ran the stall pretty much the whole day, we were shattered but so very happy!
Then it was THE DAY!
It was terrifying. Even fishmongers who had been in the trade longer than I’ve been alive were visibly shaking! But from the minute I put my personalised Tesco Team jacket on, no one could wipe the smile from my face. The mins for each category seemed like seconds, banter from the compares flew over the upbeat music and you didn’t dare look up. The reason being the spectators were right there in front of you, literally feet away and along with the judges constantly walking in around you watching and marking your work, you put your head down and didn’t look up!!
It was one of the fastest days ever. The awards were handed out, and by the time I received my Merit of Excellence certificate, I swore I’d never smiled so much.
It’s vital that customers know what fishmongers can do. It is a skill that has gone on since the beginning of time and it is a skill. Customers need to know that their fish will be prepared to specifications, even if they themselves don’t know how they want it. Fishmongers can almost preempt what a customer needs. A customer sees a whole fish, a fishmonger sees cleaned, pocketed, canoed, filleted, steaking.
That is why I’m excited for the weeks ahead. I am not the fastest fishmonger, I am not the best fishmonger. In fact I am very pleased to be acquainted with Mr. George Hooper, who won the Fishmonger Shield last year. It gives me something to aspire to, to work towards.
This year I’m representing Tarbett’s Fishmongers, the fishmonger I worked for in March. My friends are still part of the Tesco Team and I shall be cheering them on just as much as last year. But it is important that independent fishmongers are kept in the public eye, pushing the most beautiful of fish, and keeping customers returning day after day, week after week.
It also showcases the suppliers of said beautiful fish. As my readers may know, flat fish species are not only my nemesis, but my favourite fish to work on. The FlatFish company who operate from Grimsby have their own category and this year I will again be trying my best in the category. It gets the general public interested in where fish is sourced, and the chain of production to how fish ends up on your plate.
So, if you are a long suffering friend, work colleague or family member who is reading this and thinks that they can’t wait for the competition to be done, I make no apologies!! For me, as a developing fishmonger, it is literally an honour and a dream to work with such amazing people.
The following are really worth following on Twitter and looking up on the Internet..
GCH Fishmongers..Bedford owned by The Hooper Family. (@GCHfishmongers)
The FlatFish company..Grimsby owned and operated by The Stansfield Family (@BluemarlinBrand)
The National Federation Of Fishmongers