I think I’ve come back down to earth now! The 2016 Fish Craft Championships, for me especially, was one of the most amazing, confidence building and most special occasions ever.
We begin on Sunday 28th August. This year I actually managed to eat breakfast! Last year was a definite no to eating! So, I took the fact that I actually ate as a good sign. The nerves felt different this year. I was more excited, as I felt like I was doing this more for me to prove to myself I could compete and I was good enough to compete.
So, yes, I was standing as an independent competitor, and if I could do it I would be extremely happy indeed. I get told often enough that I don’t realise how good I am at what I do, and maybe I don’t, but the fact that I love being a fishmonger more than I can understand is enough for me.
I don’t think the nerves and adrenaline really took hold until I registered at the desk and got my competitor number and my times for the categories. Watching my close friends who made up The Tesco Team made me extremely proud indeed. They are excellent fishmongers in their own right aswell, and I cheered them on as much as they shouted for “Team Emma!”
It was very nice to finally meet Mr. Rex Goldsmith too (@thechelseafishmonger) and get a few words of encouragement before he was off selling fish to a supportive general public.
So, my first category was the Portion Cut challenge. We didn’t know what weight of Salmon cut was needed until we walked out to the tables. This year I didn’t do too badly and again I took that as a good sign! That was then followed up by the New England Craft category. Then it was the turn of the category I really wanted to strive for..The FlatFish challenge.
There was less time this year for the category than last year, but I used every opportunity to try and get better at filleting flatfish on my counter. I’d learned a couple of techniques to help me keep time. I quite like 1/4 filleting and filleting and I found myself working through it. The skin of the Whole Plaice seemed to behave this year and started to free itself and then I moved on to the pocketing a Lemon Sole. I got so close to taking the skeleton out when I felt my knife nick the skin..I managed to put the fillets on the tray ready for marking.
I’d never felt so proud (up to that point anyway!) Last year I didn’t get anywhere near the pocketing stage as the skin of the Whole Flatfish really didn’t want to come off and I didn’t have time to even start pocketing. But this year I got that bit closer. So, who knows next year?
Then it was the 2nd round of the New England Craft category and the Trelawney Collage, which I love doing. I watched my friend Manda produce a stunning display as she stood next to me. And finally it was The GAA Aquaculture challenge and then I could finally relax and watch the others.
The skill and passion in the fishmongers is something to behold. Then it was time for the presentations.
I received a merit of excellence certificate in The New England Fish Craft Challenge, and presented with it by the president of The Federation of Fishmongers Mr Andrew Kenny. We all cheered when fishmongers we knew very well won awards, especially Mr Michael Crates, quite honestly one of the nicest and most encouraging fishmonger gers you’ll ever meet.
Huge cheers went up for my friend Lynda Helen Smith for winning place in the Poultry Competition and Gavin Kempsell for achieving 2nd place.
In the Sterling White Halibut Challenge Gavin fought hard for 2nd place, against some very tough competition and into the waiting embrace of the celebrity that is Mr Magnus Skretting, the founder of the Sterling White Halibut Company. Coincidentally, during one of my categories I looked up to see Magnus right in front of me,taking my photo and basically getting the whole crowd to cheer me on!! The man is a legend.
My friend Jeanette won 2nd place in the collage round and when I saw the photo of the display, absolutely stunning! To be able to create a masterpiece from literally a box of fish is a craft and I’m very proud of Jen.
Then it was time for the Golden Jubilee Perpetual Challenge Cup award. Alun Tandy (another legend for the fish craft championships) explained to the audience what the award was for, and then proceeded to announce “For Tarbett’s…” the whole marquee went in an uproar of applause. I stood there. After about 10 secs of a dig in the ribs by my friend Nicola I realised it was me!!!!
I was literally gobsmacked!! If anyone took a photo of that it would be hilarious!! My friend Manda won it last year and my friend Dina won it the year before that!! So it was unreal. I’ve seen a video of me getting that award since and I’m so touched as I saw everyone clapping and just so happy that it was me receiving the award and yes I shed tears!!
And before we all knew it the awards were all handed out and photos all taken and we were heading back to the hotel!
I was also extremely proud of Mr. George Hooper who won The Shellfish Challenge, making him Shellfish Champion for 2016.
So, with the Cup and my Merit Certificate I don’t think I’d smiled so much in a very long time, and yes I felt very proud of myself for what I achieved and also know that I can build on what I learned this year for next year and be confident in my skills on my fish counter!
10th September is FishStock down in Brixham and I’m delighted to have been asked to help out with some filleting demonstrations there! So, I’ll be on my holidays from this Saturday, but it’ll be very fishy, just the way I like it! I’ll be flying the flag not only for myself and the National federation of Fishmongers but also FlatFish LTD who produce fish from Brixham aswell. No doubt that will be my next blog.
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