In person: With a passion for cooking and sustainability, Calum Richardson has the chippie all wrapped up
THERE are surely not many fish and chip shops that can claim equal standing with River Cottage, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s celebrated Dorset HQ, or the two-Michelin-starred Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, where Raymond Blanc cooks up feasts such as parfait of duck liver, crumble, rhubarb and ginger compote.
But then the Bay, tucked away on the promenade in Stonehaven, with picnic benches overlooking the beach, is no ordinary chipper.
Yes, you’ll find the usual battered haddock on the menu, alongside black pudding suppers and burgers. But lobster, landed from pots just steps away on the harbour? Hand-dived scallops? And burgers made from the very best Aberdeen Angus beef? Even the haddock has a Marine Stewardship Council chain of custody – the first chippie fish in the UK to do so. “Some folk say it’s traditional, some folk say it’s not,” says owner Calum Richardson.
“All our meat is sourced from no more than 50 miles away. All our fish is sustainable. We don’t just batter fish: we have a griddle and we can pan-fry and bake it as well. We cater for people with food allergies. It means we can diversify away from just haddock. Today, for instance, I have wild-caught salmon coming in. And we have a seafood platter, which is a good way of getting folk to try other fish. We put safe-bet haddock in there but we might also have hake and lemon sole.”
Richardson and his wife Lindsay’s commitment to sustainability and green business practices is not only changing the somewhat greasy, yesterday’s newspaper image of the fish supper; it recently won them the environmental sustainability gong at the 2012 Scotland Food and Drink Excellence Awards and secured them a coveted three-star rating from the Sustainable Restaurant Association, making it one of the top five most sustainable restaurants in the UK. Earlier this year it was a National Fish and Chip awards finalist, going on to win Scotland’s No 1 Fish and Chip.
Aberdeen born and bred, 39-year-old Richardson has always been interested in cooking. And when he joined the navy at the age of 16, it was with a view to becoming a chef. “But I came away from the careers office as an engineer,” he laughs. “I’m not too sure how that happened.”
After ten years in the forces, the opportunity arose to run a fish and chip shop. Then, in 2006, the Bay came up for sale. “We’re right on the waterfront and it was evident that you have to protect what is essentially a treasure chest of food,” he says. “It has all just been stepping stones from there. We started off buying eco-friendly cleaning materials. We were always aware of buying sustainable fish, but we used to think being sustainable was what was being caught and landed at Peterhead. Unfortunately that isn’t really the case: being sustainable is what’s available in the sea and what is breeding, so we have researched that more.”
Now they do everything from recycling their waste frying oil into bio-diesel to turning all food waste into compost and using 100 per cent renewable energy. The couple have even traded in their car for a hybrid. “I wasn’t trying to be on a par with Le Manoir,” he says, laughing. “All I was trying to do was get fish and chips seen in the right light. It gets a lot of bad press but if it’s done right it’s not only a healthy product, it’s sustainably a great product.”
Winning three-star status gave them “a great buzz”, he admits. Now they’re looking at making more improvements, such as installing solar panels and power-saving outside lights. “And we’re developing digital menus that educate the customer about where everything comes from. We’ve also had our food analysed to see what the fat content and calorific content is.”
The latest culinary development is a beer batter in collaboration with Innis and Gunn. In the meantime, he’s always looking out for any new, unusual and, obviously, sustainable fish. “Anything that’s in season and on the Marine Conservation Society list,” he says. “I’m not a chef, I’m just a keen cook and I’ll adapt to anything. As long as it’s locally sourced and sustainable, I’ll have a bash at cooking it.” n
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Monday 20 May 2013
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