..Alexander O’Niel, The Forum Frier, Blandford Forum, Dorset
Do you think robots will cook and serve fish and chips in the near future?
How did you get into the industry?
Tired of running high end kitchens with maximum stress, 70 hour weeks and not seeing my loved ones, a job came up in the local rag for an experienced manager to run a busy fish and chip shop. I met the owner, lovely chap, and he showed me around, asked me the usual interview questions, then asked whether I could run this shop. I openly laughed and needless to say I didn’t get the job.
A few weeks passed and the owner called again and asked if I was still interested. The chap he chose came with a chippy pedigree but couldn’t cope with the job! Eight years later, a world of changes and frustrations, I have new owner employers, the Duce brothers, who have invested a major wad of cash into redeveloping of an old-school chippy into a high end fish and chip shop. I’m a happy man with the tools to do the business.
If you could change jobs with anyone else for the day who would it be?
To be fair, a day back in a busy kitchen would be awesome. Running a busy fish and chip shop is rewarding but doesn’t come close to the stress and heat, flair and passion you find in the world of a chef. Some folk watch Ramsay and comment “it’s just for the TV”. Ha ha – they have no idea!
What’s your favourite film?
Oh my! I have loads, but I’m a Game of Thrones man really, with a dash of Walking Dead, topped off with some Vikings. In fact, there is an excellent series on Amazon Prime called Outlander. Check it out.
What was the first music single you bought?
Queen, Don’t Stop Me Now. I reckon that’s been an anthem for me in my whole work career now I think about it. Queen had already had Crazy Little Thing Called Love in the charts, but I didn’t have the pocket money to buy it. So, next single, I was ready!
Do you have a nickname?
I had a nickname growing up, which I have successfully managed to get rid of! I was a bit of a lad at school and thought I was a good dancer, so much so that my drama teacher sent me off to do ballet and modern dance! Oh aye, the nickname, it was ‘Shaky’ after Shakin Stevens. Oh, the shame!
What did you want to be as a child?
Flash Gordon! No explanation needed really. I mean who didn’t want to be a Flash at the age of six? I remember queuing up in the children’s home to get our pocket money on a Saturday morning. Then I would go with a couple of older boys to the early morning cinema where you had perhaps a Laurel & Hardy flick, then Flash Gordon. Good times!
If you could have anyone join your team who would it be?
That’s a difficult one really. For a week, I would love my employers, the business owners, to put themselves at my disposal. I believe it would give us all a closer working relationship and be a good morale boost for my staff.
What’s your favourite food?
I don’t have a favourite food really, but I have favourite ingredients: chillies, garlic, coriander, ginger, tomatoes and onions. Yumbo!
What sports team do you support?
I don’t follow sport. But I played rugby as a kid and was pretty good at it. I captained the first team in my high school. I even played in an international 7-a-side school boys’ tournament for Scotland.
If you could meet anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Hmmm, there are many amazing people that changed or rocked the world and to have the opportunity to perhaps talk to Julius Caesar, George Patton, Montgomery, Hitler, Saladin, Custer would be amazing. But I would choose my mother and the rest is private.
If you were Prime Minister for a day what’s the first thing you would do?
Politics and food, what a combo! I'd increase wages for nurses, firemen, the police and the armed forces - these people save lives and that needs to be recognised and rewarded financially.
If you could go back in time what year would you choose?
It would be good to be 17 again with no real responsibilities. I had a full-time job, a cracking bike, a sexy girlfriend, a good bunch of mates and my future was unwritten.
Do you have any hobbies?
I don’t have much spare time for hobbies but when I do, I shoot folk with plastic bb style bullets (yes, they really hurt) in a sport called Airsoft. I love history and visiting old castles and National Trust places, but all on a motorcycle. I have always had a motorcycle since I was 16. It’s my escape from everything.
What question would you like to ask our next “30 minutes with”?
What advice would you like to pass onto a young chef/manager/frier?