In first plaice
Consistency and attention to detail are the main ingredients for success, according to a Lincolnshire chippie, who earlier this year won a place in the country’s top ten fish and chip shops for the fifth time.
Linford’s Traditional Fish and Chips, of Market Deeping, was again named the Eastern Regional Winner in the Fish and Chip Shop of the Year 2012 competition, run by the Seafood Industry, much to the delight of owners, Paul and Pat Linford.
The family business, which has been established in the town since 1989, beat off competition from numerous other chippies based across Lincolnshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Rutland and Cambridgeshire to win the title. In January they narrowly missed out on the coveted gong of Chip Shop of the Year, which was announced at a glittering ceremony in London.
It’s not the first time the Market Deeping team has tasted success in the contest: Linford’s was also crowned Eastern Regional Winner in 2010, 2005, 2004 and 2003, runner-up in 2011 and made the regional top five in 2009.
Mr Linford who has forty years’ experience in the profession under his belt, learned his trade at a young age. He was just fourteen when he started working at his parents’ fish and chip shop in Peterborough, later returning to the family business after training and working as a technical illustrator.
He is thrilled with the shop’s latest success and puts it down to giving the customers what they want and taking their feedback on board when things do go awry.
The team had to endure several rounds of in-depth form filling, questionnaires, and judging visits, which looked at every aspect of the business, including how products are stored, cooked, presented and served, in order to win their place on the much coveted top ten list.
Mr Linford said: “We are one of the most consistent shops in the UK in this competition. It’s very in depth; it’s more than just the product you produce, it’s all about how you prepare it, store it and treat your customers too.
“To be in the last ten is very pleasing. It’s hard work to get to this stage, but I love this job – mixing with the people and working with the staff. We’ve got a great team here.”
As well as working for his parents, Mr Linford and his wife have run fish and chip shops in Holbeach and Wisbech, before settling in Market Deeping in 1989, where they now employ fourteen members of staff.
Mr Linford said the key to producing a good portion of fish and chips that will keep customers returning relies on several factors. He explained: “We offer a selection of products, but you have got to start with the right ingredients – you have to put good quality produce in for a start.
“Our batter is made to a secret family recipe, which has been passed down through the generations and I believe it’s unique to us. We pride ourselves on our consistency too; we haven’t changed anything since we came here in 1989 – not the recipes, or the portion sizes, it’s all the same.”
The preparation of the chips themselves, which is all done on site using Maris Piper potatoes, is another key to producing the ideal portion, according to Mr Linford, along with looking after the fat and the equipment in which the food is cooked.
Fish and chips is often criticised for being among the most unhealthy foods we eat but Mr Linford begs to disagree. He said: “You’re getting carbohydrates from your potatoes and protein from the fish.
“And there’s a common misconception that it’s all fried, when that’s not the case. The fish inside the batter is actually steamed and not at all saturated in fat.
“For anyone who’s still not convinced, our customers can enjoy their fish cooked in one of four ways: they can have it fried in batter, fried in flour – which is a halfway measure and gives a thinner coating – steamed, or we do a gluten-free fish and chips on a Monday teatime, which is proving really popular.”
Despite the selection on offer Mr Linford says that his sustainably sourced skinless, boneless cod remains the favourite among his customers – accounting for ninety-five per cent of orders. Other fish available includes haddock, plaice and huss (rock salmon), which all come from the well managed waters of the Barents Sea, north of Norway, the North Atlantic, off the coast of Iceland and the Faroe Isles.
Linford’s Traditional Fish and Chips is open seven days a week, attracting trade from around the region as well as other regular visitors, including one customer who makes the trip from Cambridge every Sunday night to enjoy his Linford’s supper.
Shop staff also cater for larger outside events, for over twenty people, as well as weddings, and support many local and national charities.
Looking to the future, the shop is expanding this summer with the addition of a new restaurant in the premises next door, which will provide thirty to thirty-five covers and in turn create new jobs in the town.
On top of that Mr Linford is also planning to take part in the annual Fish and Chip Shop Awards again, this time hoping to go one better in 2013.
* To try Linfords Traditional Fish and Chips for yourself visit the shop at 6 Market Place, Market Deeping. Telephone 01778 347970 or log onto www.linfordsfishandchips.co.uk for more information.