A finalist in the 2017 Drywite Young Fish Frier Competition, Luke Pope has recently been promoted to operations manager at Fish ’n’ Chick’n
I’ve never written anything like this before and I wasn’t quite sure what to focus on at first so I would like to tell you a little bit about how I got into the industry as it was totally by accident! At age 16, I had a habit of 'misplacing' things, much to my parents’ frustration. One day I came home from sixth form and realised I didn't have my house keys! My parents had been telling me to get a job since my birthday, so I applied at Fish 'n' Chick'n in South Woodham, Essex. Not only did I get the job but I also found my keys too!
I’m actually so grateful now that that turn of events happened as I’ve embarked on a great career choice and I’ve learnt and progressed so much already. In fact, I've recently been promoted to operations manager, which means I now go from store to store helping our teams to serve spectacular fish and chips as well as giving a service to our customers that we can be proud of. It’s something I would never have dreamt of doing nine years ago - or even knew was a career path available to me.
Entering the Drywite Young Fish Frier of the Year Competition last year was a first for me also. Although there were many colleagues in the Chesterford Group who suggested I should enter and supported my throughout, I really should give the managing director, James Lipscombe, a special mention as he really spurred me on.
It was a great year and being in the final five was an excellent achievement. It was a real learning curve for me and the highlight has most certainly been the people I met last year. I can honestly say that everyone in the top 10 got on great and the final five were as tight knit as can be. It's been great to see Andy Hillier and Magda Ganea enter again this year and get to the final five. They deserve all the success they get.
One of the other opportunities that I had last year through the competition that really sticks in my mind is visiting the Qbtec factory in Holland where the Kiremko ranges are built. You have no idea of the scale of the operation or the level of skill that goes into it until you see it taking place in front of your eyes. It’s not a trip I would ever have thought about going on, but it was a real eye-opener and a great opportunity to meet other young passionate people.
And that’s what I think will stick with me as I carry on my career within the fish and chip industry as I've learnt that there is such a large community working hard to benefit the industry together. We all know what a great meal we are providing and we all want to make it as good as it can be, and that is incredible to be a part of.
For those of you in the final, I know how you’re feeling and it’s even more nerve-racking when you get down to London and you’re waiting to hear if your name is read out! But the best piece of advice I can give you is to relax, enjoy and learn. The good thing about being a 'young' frier is that you're not expected to know all the answers, so ask lots of questions and make the most of this opportunity.