The Package Free Larder interior. 76 Elm Grove, Southsea, Portsmouth.
A conversation with Calum Richardson from Stonehaven’s Fish N Chips
by Aimee Rigby/12th-June-2021
Great, so welcome to Zero Waste Kode. Would you like to introduce yourself and your business?
Yeah, I’m Calum Richardson. I’m Chef director of the Bay Fish and Chips in Stonehaven.
Fantastic. And would you like to give us a bit of background about yourself and your achievements in hospitality?
Yeah, so for me, school life was difficult. I’m dyslexic. And being dyslexic back in the day I was at school, was pretty difficult.
It wasn’t really known. Anything with my hands, I was good. I wanted to join the Navy, went to the Navy to be a chef.
And then decided to go in as an engineer. So that’s how I started my career. And I decided to come out and get a civvy life; and managed a fish and chip shop, which got me going. But I had a real desire to have my own business, and implement the things that I wanted to do. So, I bought a banker up business. And I knew that winning awards was a great way of being noticed and putting yourself out there. So, I went out and I won UK Young Fish Frier of the year. And I have to be honest, the Navy probably created that, because it was the way you worked on your own or worked as a team, and the desire to go and do things and sort of gave me the foundations. But I had a business partner there and he was the most vocal, silent business partner in history. And so, I couldn’t really stomp through what I wanted to do. And but when looking back, it was a good thing. Because it made me look at things a little bit different, and trust people different. And it gave me more, again, I always think when your backs against the wall, you push and drive harder. So, like to COVID, when you’ve got to get out your comfort zone I sometimes think it’s the best thing for people. And so, I had that business for six years, and then I built the shop I’m in now, which would have been 2006. So, I’ve been in there 15 years now. And again, I knew that awards would be the way ahead. So I went out and I wanted to win Fish and Chip Shop of the Year. And so that was my main goal. And the funny thing was, when I had the trophy, the morning after I won, I looked at the trophy and thought that’s one gone already, I’ve got to make this happen. But when I went to hand it back a year later, I was ready to hand it back. But I’d already said to myself, that it was only the start, really, putting this back wasn’t the end of what I was trying to achieve. This was just the start, the doors were cracked open and I had to go kick the rest of them open and push for where I wanted to be. And sustainability has been a huge fundamental part for me in that, you know, I think it’s something that everyone’s got to be interested in or have a little bit of knowledge about. Kids come out of school with huge knowledge of it, now. The hardest people to turn around is probably the older generation, but not the really old ones who were brought up that way anyway in a different kind of format. And so you’ve got evolve. And I entered so many awards to do with sustainability. And I actually was shocked at how far I was getting in them, against companies like Nestle’s and, you know, I was, I was in a final of the European Vision and Business Awards. And I beat London Transport, Nestle UK, all these companies to get to the final and it was just like a little fish and chip shops managed to get that far. And it opened your eyes. It makes you realise, hey if I can do this, everyone can do this.
Multiple Award Winning Calum Richardson. Chef director of the Bay Fish and Chips in Stonehaven.
Absolutely, yeah. No, that’s a wonderful story. So how did you manage to make this fish and chip shop so sustainable? How are your fish and chips sourced and cooked sustainably?
So, I believe that you’ve got a look at every ingredient that comes in and every ingredient that goes out. And that can be through anything that comes into the business and which fundamentally leaves a carbon footprint.
So, I got that deep into it. But not as progressively got deeper into you know, because when I first opened the Bay, we’re right on the waterfront. And I was really in to whatever goes down the drain is going into the sea, which is weird I’m getting my fish from. So that was kind of a big, crucial thing for me, so we used back then, we used Ecover materials, because it was probably the best on the market at the time that I could get my hands on. And, but then you start looking a little bit more. And so I looked at Vegware boxes. And but this would have been back in about 2010, maybe 2008. Something around then, but I remember looking at these boxes, and they were expensive. But I thought to myself, I think it’s too ahead of its time, no one’s going to understand this, you know, you try to explain someone that’s a compostable packaging they’re going to be like: and? So I side-lined that and I went back to that idea, but three years later, sort of still ahead of time, but people were starting to understand that a little bit more. And so, I think progressively, it’s just become more in depth, becoming a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association. You know, one of the things they said to me was you need to monitor your food waste, and I’m thinking, I don’t really have much food waste. Well, once I started really looking into food waste, and I realised, and it opened my eyes deeply into silly things, like when we cut the lemons, why are we trimming that off them? I’m putting that to food waste, and that costs me to get uplifted- it gets turned into compost, but we’ve got to look at different methods, and how can we use things. So, one of the best things is probably you say to your staff, anyone who comes up with an idea, you know, I’ll support it, we’ll try it. If it works, then you’ll get something, so tickets to a concert or the football match or out for a meal. And we used to have in the shop, the big traditional deep sinks that you have in kitchens, with the long plug that comes up. And one of the staff said to me, why do we fill it with water all the time, because once the dishes are done, you’re just letting that water down the drain? So, he said let’s get an elastic band and put it on the on the drain. So, we got a depth that we’re not going to fill past. And all of a sudden, you’re thinking, this is saving a fortune, silly little things, that can make a huge difference. That’s what we do, what we believe in, the kids have got some great ideas. So, you’ve got to be open to any of these things that they’ve got, that can help you. Open Door approach has got to be there for staff so that they can come forward with their ideas. And it might not be that their ideas the right idea, but it might stem into how we get there, how we look at things.
On product, we look at everything. So, like the coffee beans, triple certified, organic, fair trade. So, you’re looking back, you know that the people are creating these or harvesting these are all treating their staff well, which fundamentally has to be in the chain, you’ve got to be looking after them. It’s not about just having a great product, the whole thing’s got to be a package. No point having the best fish if you don’t pay your staff well, you know, you’ve got to make it right from start to finish. And that’s what we’ll look at. We’ll look at everything that comes in, to everything that goes out.
So, we’ve had our carbon footprint monitored; the last time it was done was probably about four or five years ago by St. Andrews University. And they came in and I think an average meal generates over 1000 grammes of co2 per meal. And we were producing I think it’s 172 grammes of co2, because of all the things that we do, and the way that we do it reduces the co2. So, our carbon footprint is really low- it’ll be lower now than then, because we’ve made changes since that point as well. But you’ve got to- some things can be very expensive, actually. You know, so like food waste, the food waste bins, uplifting them is expensive, rather than throwing them in general waste. In Scotland, you have got, by law, you’ve got to separate your waste. But you’ve got to look at reducing the food waste to reduce the bill, but some bills in sustainability, and environmental practice, you can’t really reduce. But there’s huge savings to be made in other areas. So, what you lose in one area you gain in another and that’s kind of the way you’ve got to balance out.
Absolutely, yeah. So why do you feel that it is important to raise the profile of the fish and chip industry in terms of sustainability? Does the industry have a particularly bad reputation?
One of the things I set my mind to was to get rid of the greasy spoon image. And when I won Fish and Chip Shop of the Year, I decided that I was going to take that year to promote it in a positive manner. And I want to be not selling processed products, I want to be seen to be selling high end produce. And sure, it works. And it’s not right for everyone. I know that, you know, you’ve got to be- locations a massive point of it. But I wanted to get rid of the greasy spoon image and what I found was, I was part of the SRA, and Raymond Blanc said to me, I was in the front page of the Telegraph, it was The Bay fish and chips up against La Manoir. And I said to Raymond, I’m really sorry if I’ve embarrassed you, putting you up against fish and chips. And he says no- total opposite. And I ended up having to cook for him. For the sustainable Restaurant Association Awards, and I had to cook fish and chips for him. And
the funny thing is, all these people in all these restaurants, they all want to do fish and chips more. More so now as well. You see a lot of top chefs getting into my industry. But they all love it. They know how good it is, how good a product it is. And I think you should be proud of what you do, but do it right. And that’s kind of what I wanted to do. But I think my industry is in a quite a good place at the minute. A lot of the ‘don’t care’ people are dying out and out the younger generations coming in. And it is getting better for sure. You know, there’s a lot of real good operators out there now, and they’re putting out a fantastic product with a great image as well, which is important.
Above images; Bay Fish Cuisine and business Photos
Yeah, definitely. So, how important is the Marine Stewardship Council to your operation? In a lot of the restaurants we interview, a lot of them are involved with the Marine Stewardship Council, would you be able to tell us a little bit more about how you use them?
Yeah, so for me, it was really important, the MSC. The Scottish fleet were getting assessed. That’s probably 10 years ago now that they were getting assessed, and I said to my supplier, you’re going to have to get certified because that is something that’s important to me, I want to be able to prove to my customers where the fish is from. It’s all very well me saying it, but I’ve got some backup. And Cooper’s seafood that I’ve used for 15 years, the three generations, the oldest, the granddad wasn’t interested, the dad would humming about it. But young Jamie who’d just come into the business had an economics degree. So, he was a breath of fresh air for them. He knew that if they didn’t get it, they were going to lose me. But he went past that. And if I were to speak to him now, he wouldn’t have got contracts with a lot of the foreign countries like France, they send fish to if they didn’t have accreditation. So, it’s worked out better for them anyway. But for me, it was a big part, it was a big part of a platform for me, I know, there’s been a lot of negativity lately. But I still believe that if we didn’t have it, we would be in a worse state than we are with having it. If you’ve got, and I’ve always said as well, if you’ve got two shops identical next door to each other and say they were both mine- if one was certified, and one wasn’t certified, the people that don’t care are going to go to both shops, but the people that care about sustainability are only going to go to one of the shops. So, you kind of eliminate yourself a little bit if you don’t get with it. So, I think it’s quite crucial. You know, I want people believe in what I say. If I say I’m doing something, it’s a lot of trust, you know, gone are the days of someone coming into your shop and asking what’s in something, or where’d you get something from and you wouldn’t tell them? I think it’s opposite now, I think if they don’t tell you, you should probably not be buying it.
So yes, something we’ve come across with sustainable restaurants, which you mentioned passingly is they tend to think a lot more about their staff. And would you class offering the living wage as a sustainable approach to hospitality?
Yeah, living wage; so, I got on board, I actually looked at the living wage about three, four years ago. But again, I found it really confusing when I went online because there was a living wage, real living wage, and I got confused. I thought, I’m not getting into this. This is like a mind blow. So, I left it and then I went back to it a year and a half, two years ago. And we were doing everything anyway. So, when you’re doing something anyway, and I thought, let’s just get accreditation for it, it gives the team a bit of a boost- it makes them realise that they are being treated well. When I when I was back to the Navy, I was 16. And I was winning the Gulf War. And I was on a really a low wage, because I was a junior, I wasn’t adult, and but I was doing an adult’s job. So halfway through that trip, my boss said to me, we’ve put you forward to get your wages made up to the same as if you were 18. Because you’re doing the same job. And I thought that’s needed, you know, because it’s quite hard when you’re living with people that are on three times more money than you, and you’re expected still live with them. So, it’s quite difficult. So, it did make me think, you know, the people that are over 21 are fine anyway. But it’s the age gap, 18-21. This, they’re wanting to look at houses, or even if they’re not, they still want to build a life, they want to buy a car, they want to do the things. And they’re working as hard as anyone. So, they should be given the reward for that. So, for me, it was a no brainer, you’ve got to look after them with the reward. And also with respect and mental health- that’s a massive issue is well, so by paying people properly, and respecting them, that’s one burden away from that equation, which you know, has got to be addressed.
Absolutely, lovely. So yeah, finally, what sort of advice would you give to restauranteurs, who are thinking about going in the sustainable route?
I think everyone has due diligence to be looking to be sustainable, environmental friendly, even if it’s the basics, you know, I’m watching online, just now, the debacle of people arguing in England about in 10 pence bag charge. Now, that’s been something that’s been in Scotland for years, and no one bats an eyelid, you know, it’s, the bag sales have gone right down. And so that’s a plus. But I think you’ve got to start with basics. And once you sit by, don’t try and do everything at once, because if you do that, you’ll probably put yourself off baby steps and everything, get everyone involved. And you’ll probably find that your team have got better ideas than you have by a mile. But baby steps, start with something simple look at your cleaning materials. Basic things that you can put into your business instantly, and saving money, but not only that, it’s better for the environment. And then you start looking, looking at the product that you’re using, like your food, where the meats coming from, you know, is it British? Is it Scottish? And where exactly is it from? Do you know anything about the company? How do they get the product to you? So, like we do a lot of sharing- so I’ll get the milk delivered with the potatoes, because it’s someone who lives right near the other, the supplier. So, the job share, and it saves two vehicles coming to me, twice a week, three times a week. And also, the suppliers have probably got a lot of good ideas for you as well. So, you just have to open your door, open your ears, open your eyes and take baby steps that you’ll never be totally there. Because if I look back to what I was doing a year ago, five years ago, I’ve evolved so much, and I’ve changed so many things over the years. So, you’ve got to keep moving forward. Don’t stand still- if you just stand still it’ll go past you before you know it.
Wonderful. Yeah. So finally, where can our listeners find out more about you and the Bay fish and chips.
So, we’ve got fish and chips website www.thebayfishandchips.com we’re on all social platforms @thebayfish on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. And we’re pretty active on it. It’s quite good. And that’s a great way as well actually of getting ideas in contacting people and moving forward.
Thank you so much for coming on the podcast.