30 minutes with….
…Lee Penaluna, Penaluna’s Famous Fish & Chips, Hirwaun, Rhondda Cynon Taf
What are your best frying tips?
Quite simply only use the best products available to you at the time, don’t overthink it or complicate the process, and always test something new to make sure it responds how you want it to and delivers want you want to sell.
How did you get into the industry?
I wanted to own a restaurant business, circumstances and life choices put me in Hirwaun. When the village chippy and café went up for sale, I was advised through a friend of my dad’s to invest in training first at the NFFF in Leeds. I had never been a lover of fish and chips, but I came back with a passion for it which I still have today, some 13 years on.
If you could change jobs with anyone else for the day who would it be?
It may sound a bit of a cliché, but I love cooking and eating fish and chips and I’ve only ever been in the catering industry so wouldn’t want to do anything else. I would love to take a day out to show others what to do though.
What’s your favourite film?
I rarely get the chance to sit down and watch films, but I do enjoy taking my princess to the cinema on occasions, so it’s not the film I enjoy, it’s the company I keep.
What was the first music single you bought?
My first music single was Bad by Michael Jackson. I’ve always enjoyed his music and would buy it again.
Do you have a nickname?
I actually have two nicknames which are used regularly. My old boss, Stephen Terry, called me crumble, not after the dessert but because he would love to see me go to the extreme until I could do no more, then he’d help out. My other nickname used more by my team here is pockets. They tell me my pockets are deep as I’m so tight I hold on to everything!
What did you want to be as a child?
I always wanted to be a chef. My parents tried to turn me off it, but my mum’s cooking convinced me that there must be a way to make food enjoyable. My first tutor at college, John McGeehan, who sadly recently passed away, ignited the deep passion in me to produce food and I’ve never looked back. John also supported me in every step I’ve taken in the industry.
If you could have anyone join your team who would it be?
Without a doubt it would have to be my old boss Stephen Terry. I would love to put him under the pressure of customers queueing and constant cooking, although I guess he’d adapt quickly as he has as much passion for delivering quality food as I have.
What’s your favourite food?
First and foremost it’s fish and chips. I followed a diet two years ago which included eating from fish and chip shops at least twice, sometimes four or more times a week. After that it has to be meat in any form, preferably steaks or loins but simply cooked to enjoy the proper flavour.
What sports team do you support?
I have always supported Liverpool FC. My mum is from Liverpool and her family is easily divided on reds or blues. To antagonise my grandma, who’s from the blue end, I won’t say their name!
If you could meet anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you ask?
Following my love for Liverpool, the person I would like to meet again would be my grandad from Liverpool. He spent a short time playing at the club and I would love to hear what it was like many years ago and to compare it with the lavish lifestyles football player have these days.
If you were Prime Minister for a day what’s the first thing you would do?
I’d love to see road tax eliminated and replaced by a simple (maybe controversial) extra tax on fuel. If you use the roads, public transport, railway etc, pay for it. Use it a lot, pay more. Use it a little, pay less. It would also make sure everyone contributes, especially those who think they can get away without taxing their vehicles. You can’t go anywhere without fuel.
If you could go back in time what year would you choose?
It would have to be 1982, the year before I was born. I could start with a new life and avoid all the mistakes I’ve made, although there’s not much I’d change in the choices I have made.
Do you have any hobbies?
Firstly, ballroom dancing. I spent over 16 years growing up travelling the country, and even abroad, dancing and what an experience. For the record, I have several British Classical and Modern Sequence titles. My other hobby is cycling which I’ve not done for a while, but I’m slowly getting back into it and really enjoying the freedom of the cycle rides.
What question would you like to ask our next “30 minutes with”?
We all like to think we’re keeping up with trends, so what do you think a fish and chip shop will look like in 20 years time?