David Henley Talking Pollocks (and other fishy business)
David Henley and his wife Lisa are no strangers to the fish and chip awards. They’ve been shortlisted four times as operating a top ten chippy in the UK and Fast Food Pro Mag caught up with him to find out a bit more about what he thinks it takes to be such a consistently good operator…
What was the light bulb moment that led you to the food industry?
I was not very academic at school. I had a summer job working in a kiosk on the coast serving Hot dogs, burgers and chips. The owner of the Fish & Chip Shop on my estate had seen me working in there and one day when I was walking home from School, he was waiting for me, to ask me if I wanted a job. I put my bag down and started there and then.
Who was your Food Hero and biggest influence?
It has to be Keith Floyd not just because we share a love for the odd glass of Wine but I believe he was one of the first to take food out on the road or even on the high seas I recall him once trying to prepare a Fish Stew on board a trawler the wind picked up but he never gave in, the cameraman, the producer the ingredients all bobbing about and he never spilt a drop that’s true dedication to his craft!
Who do you consider to be the best in your field?
Richard Ord of Colman’s of South Shields. I don’t believe there is anyone else in our industry with the heritage and providence that Richards family have and to pass on this legacy to his Son Richard Jr and opening Colman’s Seafood Temple, I don’t think anyone has showcased our industry better.
What do you regard as being the 3 most important factors for success in your business?
The three key ingredients for me are the quality of the raw materials you source to produce exquisite fish and chips, the environment and the way in which you present them to your customers and the passion you have for the industry. Producing fish and chips for me is an honour and a privilege. I’m extremely proud of what I do and I’m proud to represent the industry I work in.
What do you consider to be your magic ingredient?
It’s not a magic ingredient as such. We have very strict operating procedures to deliver first class meals and service but I do believe that it’s our wet fish display built into our counter that sets us apart. I had always wanted to showcase fish & chips at its best and our customers can see the quality and variety of our fish. They can choose from the display and have it fried right before their eyes!
What do you regard as your biggest threat, opportunity or challenge for the next 12 months?
I think political instability is a key factor in consumer confidence. Fish and chips has always been great value food for the masses and real comfort food. I think that with Brexit on the horizon, people should turn to fish and chips to make themselves feel better. The challenge for our Industry is how do we effectively promote the brand of fish and chips. There are just so many positives about this iconic dish and I say – “Let’s turn up the feel good factor!” and batter the big chains on the social media battle fields.
What do you predict to be the next big Food trend/fad and where from?
Our best friends live in Atlanta USA and we stay with them now and again. Recently we went to a place called “Tap and Truck” – an amazing concept with a wide variety of cask and artisan beers. It looks like any other restaurant/bar but they have parking to the rear where each day different food trucks arrives offering amazing street food. The day we visited it was Greek Gyros, kebabs etc on the chalkboard. There’s a rolling 7 day menu that constantly gets updated and evolves - they even had a seafood truck with Maine Lobsters arriving the next day.
It was located in quite a small town. Imagine a restaurant being able to offer diners a different cuisine everyday. I’m not sure it’s the next big food trend, but the host venue gets the wet sales and the customers gets a different street food menu every day. I
You’re a FRYMAX Ambassador aren’t you? Tell us what this is and why you do it?
I have been a Frymax customer since the very beginning. As a brand ambassador, I offer my time, support and expertise to other Frymax customers to ensure that they get the very best performance and products from using it. As a frying medium, it’s sustainable, robust and an extremely important part of what makes my fish and chips taste so good. It’s low in trans fats and isn’t hydrogenated and adds real value to my customer’s experience.
What would winning this years fish and chip shop of the year competition mean to you?
It would mean validation for almost a life time of work. It would mean the world to my wife and I who have raised our children and battled through ill health and adversity without compromising. I’ve been proud to serve the people of Wivenhoe for decades. I’d be extremely honoured to serve the Industry that has been so generous to me by spending my year as champion shouting about what makes fish and chips such an important, much loved and trustworthy meal to us all. My main aim would ultimately be to convert my win into extra sales for the whole industry and enhanced public perception of what makes fish and chips such a fantastic meal at any time of the day or night. We truly represent this industry because we can relate to every other operator out there today.