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Young gun

At just 16 years of age when she entered the 2016 Drywite Young Fish Frier Competition, Elise Boothroyd of Fochabers Fish Bar in Moray, Scotland, is the competition’s youngest competitor, proving it’s never too early to get started 

This has been my first experience of entering Drywite’s Young Fish Frier of the Year Competition and I really only put myself forward after I saw the entry form for one of the girls in the shop who entered last year. Reading that made me realise I knew a lot of the things that were being asked, for example about batter and potato prep and frying temperatures, so I thought I would enter. Obviously it gets more in-depth the further you get in the competition, so I didn’t even think I would place in the top ten, so to make the top five and then come second, I was just so shocked. 

It’s been great though because there have been some folk who have said I’m too young - I’m 17 now - to do certain things, but by being confident in a positive way, I’ve been able to show them that you can achieve things while you’re learning and growing.

For anyone unsure about entering this year, I would say just do it. Even if you think you aren’t ready, you will learn so much and you’ll get to meet a lot of great people who will be able to help you along the way.

Entering the competition also helps you understand all the different aspects there are to running a fish and chip shop, so not just the practical things like batter and potato prep, but the business side of things too. I’m beginning to understanding more about profit margins, for example, and it’s something I’m looking forward to learning more about in the future.

When I was at school there was never anything that really interested me, nothing really stood out, so when my mum and dad bought Fochabers four years ago, I started out by washing the dishes. I then moved onto the counter and from there I could see people frying and I would think I’d like to give that a go. I quickly realised I was quite good at it and so I could combine a hobby and a job at the same time.

It’s been a great learning curve for us all, in fact. My mum and dad knew nothing about running a fish and chip shop when they bought it. My dad attended a three day training course at the National Federation of Fish Friers and we have developed our business based on best practice. I’ve been fortunate to watch the shop grow from the bottom to Scotland’s No.1 takeaway in such a short time and see everyone develop along the way. 

One of the things that has helped us has been visiting other shops and it’s something I would encourage all young friers to do. You can pick up a lot of good ideas this way and nobody minds you taking them away with you. It’s also helped me realise that different things work for different shops. For example, our chip size is larger than most at 14mm x 20mm. I thought everyone else’s chips were really skinny, but when I realised that the recommended size was 14mm x 17mm, we tried it ourselves. It turned out that our customers liked the thicker chip, it was what they were used to, so we stuck with it. I realise now that’s one of the things that differentiates us from other shops and that’s actually important. Sometimes it’s good to be different.

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