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Skipper George

As this year’s Drywite Young Fish Frier, George Papadamou visited Norway to find out how some of the 60,000 tonnes of cod and 40,000 tonnes of haddock it exports to the UK each year are caught and processed

Last month I had the opportunity to go to Norway on a study tour organised by Seafish and the Norwegian Seafood Council. I’ve never been before, although my dad has been twice and he always speaks so fondly about it, the stories of what he did and the people he met. He spoke with so much knowledge and passion that as soon as I got a call from Nikki Hawkins at Seafish asking if I wanted to go to Norway, I jumped at the opportunity.

It was a really quick turnaround and within two days I found myself driving down to Heathrow and boarding a plane with the finalists in the 2018 Independent Fish & Chip Takeaway award.

We arrived in Norway and headed straight to the port city of Alesund, it’s the most gorgeous place and very picturesque. We went for a meal that night before meeting a couple of guys from Geir II, a FAS longliner that we were to go out on the following day. We were handed our uniforms, all in one jump suits - the height of Scandinavian design I have to say - designed to keep us warm, fresh and clean.

The next day we were up early to board Geir II and start our journey out on the cold, clear Norwegian waters. The boat is actually one that we have used for our fish in the past and, I have to say, it’s out of this world. It catches mainly cod and haddock, a majority of which comes to the UK for the fish and chip shop market.

It was a great opportunity to close any gaps in my knowledge. I actually thought I knew quite a lot about the fish we source, but I learnt so much more. I can now not only say I know the name of the skipper, but that I’ve met him, I’ve seen how the fish is caught and I’ve met the guys that take it off the hooks. I understand the whole process now. I actually commented to one of the guys that the great thing about fish and chips is that it is so transparent and you can trace everything back. Going on this trip reinforced that, plus I actually got to play skipper for a bit and steer the boat!

Something I realised while being onboard is that these boats are very similar to fish and chip shops. They are all family-run businesses and seeing the owner and his son on the boat, it’s just how I feel with my dad when people come into our restaurant. They are so proud of what they are doing and the effort they are putting in. Just as my dad inspects every portion of fish and chips before they go out, they were inspecting every piece of fish that comes off the hook.

I thought no one hated seeing a brown blemish on a piece of fish more than we do, but these guys do too. They know they are catching for the British fish and chip shop market and know we demand a high quality product. That was really reassuring to see. 

If certainly was a once in a life time experience. I had lots of fun, I mixed with like-minded people and I took in so much information. I think everyone who goes on that trip comes home with a wealth of knowledge, whether it’s being able to trouble shoot when something isn’t quite right with your fish to being able to talk more confidently with your own suppliers, it really does make a difference.

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