In a year where the weather has played havoc with British and European potato crops, what better place to visit than a working potato farm to hear all about the current market and what Fish and Chip shops can expect in the coming months, welcome to the Field to Frier open day! Hosted by Isle of Ely Produce with Chippy Chat Magazine, and the ever-enthusiastic Austen Dack, Friars Pride representatives Brian, Nathan and Rob set up shop once again with product guides and goody bags for all of the 100+ attendees.
The open day began with a warming cup of tea before the Fish Friers, some travelling from as far as Cornwall and Scotland, took their seats in anticipation for the speeches to begin. Throughout the day there were some fantastic speeches, touching on subject such as oil, oil filtration, fire prevention and of course the matter in hand, potatoes! Not to mention the great talks from Field to Frier and Drywite Young Fish Frier winners Mr C's, Seafood from Norway representative Hans Frode, reigning Fish & Chip Shop of the Year Miller's of Haxby, a Q & A with Calum Richardson of the Bay Fish & Chips and last but not least Pete Fraser talking all things International Mushy Pea Day (9th November 2018!).
Sandwiched between two halves of the seminar plan for the day was the opportunity to visit the local potato fields and the production and packaging facilities, a particular highlight due to the uncertainty over potato pricing and crops.
This gave the Fish & Chip Shop owners the chance to understand why they may be feeling the squeeze when it comes to potato costs but also the money and efforts being put in by the farmers to produce the best potatoes possible in difficult growing conditions and how the costs must be fair and balance out to ensure longevity both for farmers and the Fish & Chip industry alike.
After everyone had built up an appetite on the farm visit some of the key manufacturers, such as Middletons, Kerry and Pukka, laid on a beautiful array of foods and sauces, which were all on offer with chips made fresh from local potatoes. The sauce accompaniments came in the form of Kerry Foodservice's new Cheese sauce and Korma sauce made for 'loaded fries', along with Middleton's delectable gluten Free and smooth & spicy curry sauce on tap, with chips fried in Friars Pride's very own Fri4Life High Oleic Sunflower oil! To accompany the sauce smothered chippy chips, Pukka Pies' new vegetarian Tikka Masala pies went like hot cakes (or hot pies!) to very good feedback all round.
The main takeaway of the day, in addition to the messages of why shops should enter the Fish & Chip Awards, was that the future is still slightly unsure in regards to how the main potato crop will turn out.
This is due to the crop being 40% down on last year due to the weather going from one extreme to the other... Starting off with a bitter spring and moving into a summer too hot for potato growth, incurring extra costs for irrigation where available. On top of the British weather woes for the industry, the European climate has been no better, meaning that demand for other countries to import potatoes from the UK has grown, leaving less for the UK market and driving prices up, these factors have all attributed to the perfect storm and the current situation. A great day was had by all and after a day full of education, networking and of course food sampling, the Friars Pride goody bags were handed out, with plenty of information including FRY I.T. 2019 invites, and the guests sent home to enjoy the remainder of their Sunday evening.
Thank you for having us Austen and all at Chippy Chat/Isle of Ely Produce, see you again next year!