Diamond jubilee for British Fish Craft Championship
Following on from Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee celebrations earlier in the year, the UK’s National Federation of Fishmongers (NFF) is holding its diamond jubilee (sixtieth) annual British Fish Craft Championships next month. They will take place on Sunday 2 September in Cardiff Bay in Wales as part of the Cardiff Harbour Festival.
“The craft championships play an important role in nurturing raw talent and marketing fish to the consumer,” says Gary Hooper, NFF president. “Consumers want to be shown how to prepare and cook fresh fish. We are the people to show them here, and as the skill and knowledge levels increase through this competition so the skills will be passed on to the public.”
Fishmongering skills will be demonstrated in the 12 competitions that will be held throughout the day during the celebration. And also in the two days of fish preparations and demonstrations that will be held during the preceding two days – Friday 31 August and Saturday 1 September.
The two days of fish preparations and demonstrations will be sponsored by two of the UK’s top supermarket chains, Morrisons and Tesco. Together with retailer Sainsbury’s, , each has fish counter staff participating in the craft championships.
Indeed, Morrisons, which prides itself on training its fish-counter staff, won 10 awards at the British Fish Craft Championships last year.
Hooper welcomes the involvement of the supermarket chains. “It is great to see the supermarkets getting involved with independent fishmongers and processors. As the supermarkets have grown and their offer broadened they are the natural progression for the fishmongers of the future.
“Many of the supermarkets are opening more and more stores with fish counters and with that will come increased knowledge and focus. However, these people need to be trained. I, myself, have developed a level 2 diploma award for Tesco to increase the skill levels of their fishmongers, which is showing great benefits.”
The championships, which are sponsored by Young’s Seafood and other seafood companies, are open to anyone involved in the fish, poultry or game trade and participants can enter up to six competitions, with the exception of Morrisons’ Craft Challenge. This competition is for part time workers, beginners or those who have never entered a competition before.
The competitions mainly concentrate on filleting, skinning, portioning, steaking or otherwise preparing fish including halibut, salmon, trout and various flatfish, with competitions specifically featuring Marine Stewardship Council-certified and “non targeted” species. Other competitions are for shellfish and poultry, which is often sold by fishmongers. Then there is a raft of trophies awarded for categories such as best presented competitor, top scoring independent competitor, best female competitor, etc.
According to Hooper, craftsmanship competitions have played an important role in promoting fishmongering skills to the public and acknowledging many talented fishmongers. Certainly the British Fish Craft Championships have attracted crowds wherever they have been held.
Before moving to Cardiff in 2008, after receiving support from Cardiff Council and the Welsh Assembly Government, the championships had been a regular event at Hay’s Galleria in London. However, in their early days they had taken place in many port locations and exhibition centers as part of fish festivals.
Last year’s championship had one of the closest ever finishes, with just 48 points in a possible 1,800 separated first and third place.
The overall winner, who was crowned NFF British Fish Craft Champion 2011, was Terry Martin of national seafood supplier M&J Seafood, which has fishmongers at its various branches throughout the UK. It had entered nine competitors from 12 of its branches and carried off 19 prizes on the day.
Fishmongers hold the key to the future of the UK’s seafood industry, according to Martyn Boyers, CEO of Grimsby Fish Dock Enterprises. “We need fishmongers and their expertise,” he told guests at the NFF’s 80th Anniversary Luncheon in June. On the evidence of the British Fish Craft Championships, it seems as though their skills will be with us for some time yet.