United with his trophy, George Papadamou of Papa’s Fish & Chips in Hull celebrates being crowned the 2017 Drywite Young Fish Frier of the Year
I finally got my hands on the Malcolm Lee trophy at the Henry Colbeck show in Newcastle earlier this month and it was a really exciting experience. I’ve never held it before, so to be able to take it back to the shop was just fantastic.
It was a funny experience though, being at the exhibition, because it was there, three years ago, that I was with my brother Dino when Nikki Hawkins grabbed our attention and asked why we had not entered the Drywite Young Fish Frier competition before. I wasn’t sure if I had enough time left to win it, because it is one of those competitions where practice makes perfect and where you have to keep taking your feedback each year and improving. And then, there I was, with the trophy. I was really taken back. I feel extremely proud of my achievement and I’m also privileged to hold this prestigious award, especially when I look at previous winners and see what they have gone on to achieve.
It also got me thinking about my reasons for not getting involved in the Drywite Young Fish Frier competition sooner because, although this is the second time I’ve entered, as a business we’ve been involved with The National Fish & Chip Awards for many years. I think my initial reservation was I thought I was too busy, but I now know that’s a complete fallacy.
Drywite's Young Fish Frier of the Year has an enormous amount of structure to it and is so well organised that you really can fit it around your personal and your business life. We’ve opened three shops and I’m getting married this year, it really has been non-stop, but I’ve been able to work the competition around all that. Drywite, Seafish and the NFFF have fixed windows for when everything happens, so you always know the dates for the various rounds, and when they can be, they are flexible.
I’m very keen to make sure others get that message too in the hope it will encourage more young friers to enter. The fact that I entered a second time is testament to just how well organised and structured I think the competition is. And each stage improves you, not just as an individual but as a business too. It pushes you, it puts pressure on you and that pressure drives growth. It certainly has in our case, making us a better, stronger business.
I’m certainly looking forward to what the next 12 months bring. I know we’ve got a busy year ahead — our 500 seater restaurant at Cleethorpes opens next month and we’ve only got one opportunity to get that right — so that’s our main focus right now. But I’m not going to let that stop me making the most of my opportunity to promote fish and chips and to keep it at the forefront of everybody’s minds when they are thinking about what takeaway to have on a Friday night. Where I can, I want to tie the two together, so I’m going to be telling people if they want fish and chips fried by the UK’s number one fish frier, then come to Papa's!
Plus, we also won the Marketing Innovation Award this year, so if we can’t market my win, we’re in serious trouble!
Before I sign off, I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone at Drywite, the NFFF and Seafish for making the judging process a friendly atmosphere conducive to learning and improving. And, finally, although this is an individual award, I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family and everyone at Papa's. You’ve been behind me from the start, making sure I was supported and that the shop was top quality and operating at an unbelievable standard for when the judges came in. It really was a team effort, so thank you.