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30 Minutes With...

...Geoff Whitehead, Whiteheads Fish & Chips, Hornsea, Near Hull, East Yorkshire

How could we improve and promote the national dish more?

I think the industry is getting very much more professional with many chippies doing a great job in promoting the product in their locality. In addition, I think the whole sector would benefit from a concerted "fish and chips are great" sizzle-sell campaign to keep the healthy eating benefits of fish and chips in the public eye, especially as every bus shelter and street hoarding seems to sport a campaign from one or another of the leading corporate chicken or burger multiples.

How did you get into the industry?

My parents had fish and chip shops ever since I was knee-high to a grasshopper so I always did my bit, rumbling and chipping spuds to earn pocket money - never thinking I would end up spending most of my adult life running one. After spending some time fishing on the family boat, I was asked by chance if I’d help out in a local fish and chip shop. It was as if a light was switched on and I realised I loved the industry and wanted my own chippy. Fired with the idea, I worked on oil rigs in the North Sea for three years to save as much as I could. It is now 21 exciting and very busy years since my mum and I went into business together to establish Whiteheads Fish & Chips that we own today. 

If you could change jobs with anyone else for the day who would it be?

I am a massive sports fan, in particular, football, so this is easy - Jose Mourinho. I would love to see how I would handle the pressure of fame. Nothing is private, you can’t go anywhere or do anything without intrusion from the press. And not forgetting to learn from one of the best clubs in world football. I think doing our job for a day would give him an understanding of “a hard day’s work for a hard day’s pay” as we really do put in the hours in this industry.

What’s your favourite film?

Shawshank Redemption, all day long. A fantastic film with a great plot and brilliant acting.

What was the first music single you bought?

Golden Brown from the Stranglers. I only bought it because it was the only single left on the shelf, the shop had sold out of everything else!

Do you have a nickname?

I have lots but the one that sticks out more than others is “microphone head”  Why? Because I have such a full head of hair it reminds people of the times when the Jackson five grew their hair back in the 60’s and 70’s and it looked like a spongy microphone!

What did you want to be as a child?

Like every child on our street, I dreamed of becoming a professional footballer. I was not a bad player back in the day but a bad back injury put pay to that dream.

If you could have anyone join your team who would it be?

Gordan Ramsay. He’s extremely passionate about food, just needs to curb his effing and jeffing a little, but he’s a great ambassador for the food industry.

What’s yourfavourite food?

Chicken dinner without a doubt. I was brought up on home cooked dinners pretty much every day as a youngster and I never get fed up with it - healthy and wholesome.

What sports team do you support?

My local football club, Hornsea Town. Next to work and family it’s my biggest passion in life, and not necessarily in that order as Eric Morecambe once famously said!

If you could meet anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you ask them?

John F Kennedy as he represented the free world at a time of great challenge and change. Though I was very young, he left a strong impression on me so would want to ask him so much about the world at that time that I didn’t fully understand. Most significantly I would ask him if his Berlin visit sowed the seeds for the dismantling of the Berlin wall and reducing tension in Europe.

If you were Prime Minister for a day what’s the first thing you would do?

I would definitely want to see more emphasis on the economy outside of the South East, where the spending on infrastructure projects is just amazing. There is no denying that London’s Crossrail will improve transport in the capital, but the Yorkshire region would benefit if our rail system was improved and, yes, I would reopen the rail links to Hornsea and Withernsea to enable the towns – and all stations along the tracks - to regain their ease of access for all.

If you could go back in time what year would you choose?

Around 1900 with Queen Victoria still on the throne. Hornsea would have been a genteel seaside town with a railway station and promenaders taking the sea air.

What question would you like to ask our next “30 minutes with”? 

Are there any innovations you’d suggest for independent chippies?

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