Two years after graduating from uni, Alex Walker of Lows Traditional Fish & Chips in West Hill, Aberdeen, took second place in this year’s Drywite Young Fish Frier of the Year competition and is now on his way to opening his own shop
I never saw myself pursuing a career in fish and chips but by a stroke of luck I managed to fall into the industry. At first, my job was a means to earn pocket money when I was at school. I have always been a competitive person by nature and this drove me to try and be the best at my job. As I progressed through the business, I found myself enjoying my job more and more which led me to think about pursuing a career in the industry.
In 2014, I was pushed into attending Lancaster University to study geography and environmental science. I remember every student on my course having no idea what job they would pursue and, whenever asked, they would always quote “we have transferable skills!” I didn’t particularly enjoy my degree, however, university allowed me to grow as a person, and the most important transferable skill was critical thinking and writing, which have been invaluable in our business.
2017 was a big year for me. I graduated university achieving a Bachelors of Science and decided to take on a full-time position at Lows. Soon after this I was offered a partnership in opening my own fish and chip shop. I’ve always found it difficult working for someone else, so having the opportunity to work for myself was a no-brainer! I also entered the Drywite Young Fish Frier of the Year competition. I made it to the top 10 but didn’t progress any further, which made me realise that there was still plenty of information I needed. The moral of the story? Don’t be too cocky!
In 2018, I entered the Drywite Young Fish Frier of the Year competition and put our shop, Lows, into the National Fish & Chip Awards. I was determined to achieve more than I had the previous year and decided to take on training to improve my skills.
"I was determined to achieve more than I had the previous year and decided to take on training to improve my skills."
I went on management courses run by the NFFF, worked with the then current Fish & Chip Shop of the Year winners David and Nick at Millers in Haxby, York, went on advanced food hygiene courses and attended best practice days at the NFFF. The skills and knowledge learned throughout this training were invaluable to my progression.
The year is somewhat of a blur as tackling both competitions took a huge amount of time and effort. Both were an amazing experience and have vastly improved my skills and knowledge and have impacted the business dramatically. We achieved the Best Fish & Chip Shop in Scotland, which was my boss David’s dream, and then went one step further by attaining third place in the UK. I, meanwhile, was placed second in the UK in the Drywite Young Fish Frier of the Year competition.
To anyone entering, or thinking about entering, a competition my advice would be to learn about the industry and, once you think you know everything, learn some more!
There are so many different ways to approach everything. I’m often asked what the secret to making a great portion of fish and chips is and my answer is always determination, hard work and passion. The fish and chip industry wasn’t my first choice, but I somehow fell in love with it and can’t wait to open up my own business later this year.