MIDLANDS FISH AND CHIP EXPERT RECEIVES AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT

Michael Pili, who runs the Midlands Seafish Industry Training Association, has won an award for his outstanding contribution to the fish frying industry after being nominated by his peers at the 2017 National Fish & Chip Awards (26 January), organised by Seafish.

 

Michael, who offers training and business assistance to fish and chip shops, scooped The Award for Outstanding Achievement during a prestigious ceremony held at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel in London – an event widely regarded as the ‘Oscars’ of the fish frying industry.

 

Sponsored by Middleton Food Products Limited, The Award for Outstanding Achievement recognises an individual who has made a significant contribution to the industry and has been instrumental in advancing the industry through innovation, modernisation or simple perspiration.

 

In his current role at the Midlands Seafish Industry Training Association, Michael works with a wide range of fish and chip businesses, training and offering them advise on topics such as food hygiene, health and safety, best practices, and preparation for quality award audits.

 

Michael also brings extensive knowledge and experience to his role as a judge for the annual Drywite Young Fish Frier of the Year Competition, along with being an assessor for the Fish & Chip Quality Award Scheme run by the National Federation of Fish Friers.    

 

Michael is a past president of the National Federation of Fish Friers (1998-2000) and previously owned Chesters Catering and the Blue Angel Fish Bar in the Midlands area.

 

Marcus Coleman, Chief Executive at Seafish, comments: “The aim of the National Fish & Chip Awards has always been to showcase the very best fish and chip businesses and individuals in the UK while setting incredibly high standards for the rest of the fish and chip industry to aspire to.

 

“When searching for our outstanding achiever, representatives from across all parts of the fish and chip industry are invited to nominate a person deserving of recognition, and Michael’s nomination is one that the industry is wholeheartedly behind.

 

“As one of our longest-standing judges for the awards, Mike’s industry knowledge and skillset is unrivalled. With a background in fish frying and running fish and chip businesses, Michael is the perfect person to assess how all the different elements of the shop marry together.

 

“Throughout his time as a judge for The National Fish & Chip Awards, Michael has been to hundreds of shops across the country. He is respected for his fair critique of working practices and, most importantly, the fish and chips being served.

 

“Michael is an extremely worthy winner, and it’s a privilege being able to reward his life-long passion and commitment to the fish and chip trade. Warmest congratulations to Michael on his outstanding achievement.”

 

Award sponsor Peter Hill, CEO at Middleton Foods, said: “Mike Pili is renowned in our industry with over 55 years’ experience. He was not only one of the best friers in the past, but in recent years he has gone onto become one of the most thorough judges in the history of the awards and, arguably, the industry.

 

“Working tirelessly for years, he has raised the standards of our country’s fish and chip businesses, especially in the Midlands by embracing independent shop owners. He motivates others to expect and demand more from their businesses, constantly striving to push the industry forward and help shops serve a better product.

 

“In my opinion there is no person who has given what he has to this industry. What he does is instrumental to the development of our sector. He is a leading light, and this industry may still be in the dark ages without his contribution.”

 

Now in their 29th year, The National Fish & Chip Awards are recognised as one of the most prominent and respected seafood industry events in the UK. They celebrate the Great British tradition of fish and chips, showcasing the best talent, quality and choice offered by fish and chip businesses through 14 different award categories.

 

For more information visit www.fishandchipawards.com or follow @FishnChipAwards #FishnChipAwards.

Golden Carp Chippy in Matchborough Wins Award

Golden Carp Fish Bar Owner Theo Ellinas, NFFF Quality Award assessor Michael Pili, and George Ellinas.

Golden Carp Fish Bar Owner Theo Ellinas, NFFF Quality Award assessor Michael Pili, and George Ellinas.

A REDDITCH chippy is has received a prestigious award.

Golden Carp Chippy in Matchborough is celebrating after being recognised with the National Federation of Fish Friers (NFFF) Fish & Chip Quality Award.

The award identifies fish and chip outlets that serve the highest quality fish and chips, following a thorough assessment of the premises, equipment, working practices, hygiene standards and management controls, along with the quality and taste of fish and chips.

Golden Carp Chippy owner Theo Ellinas, said: “The Golden Carp Chippy team is proud that we have achieved this prestigious award from the NFFF.

"It is a testament to all the hard work of my team at the Golden Carp Chippy.

"We always source the best quality ingredients including our potatoes and fish which is responsibly sourced and fully sustainable. We always thriving to produce the perfect chip, which is always prepared daily from the best potatoes.

He added: "In achieving this great award, please look out for our half price day in the near future, to say thanks to our loyal customers.”

Richard Wardell, from the NFFF, said: "Golden Carp Chippy clearly takes pride in where it sources its fish and potatoes from.

"Achieving this award provides reassurance to customers that they are being served cooked food using high-quality ingredients.”

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How to Judge a Good Chippy According to Britain’s Longest-Serving Fish and Chip Inspector

“I’ve got a nickname: Poirot with a torch.”

Wearing a white coat, fedora, and a neat little moustache, Michael Pili—the longest-serving judge of the Seafish Fish and Chip Shop of the Year Award—is pointing a torch at the underside of a fridge door.

Fish and chips are the closest Britain has to a national dish. Unlike Yorkshire puddings or Cornish pasties—or even chicken tikka masala—no county or area can lay a particular claim to it. Fat chips and battered cod are ubiquitous around the country.

And after two hours of rummaging around the unseen parts of Poppie’s Fish and Chips, I’m beginning to grasp that there’s more to a decent portion of the deep-fried classic than I ever could have imagined.

To be clear, Poppie’s is a prizewinner. The East London chippy won the title of “Independent Fish and Chip Restaurant of the Year” at the start of 2015 and owner Pat Newland (a.k.a. Pop) has 63 years frying experience.

But even with such accolades, Pili will judge Poppie’s using near-forensic precision—as he does with every chippy he visits.

“I’ve got a nickname: Poirot with a torch.”  

“I’ve got a nickname: Poirot with a torch.”

 

“I go all over the country and I see good and bad,” he says. “I go in—unknown—and make a purchase. I’ll have the car parked nearby. I open the boot, put the food down, take a picture, and get the thermometer out to record the temperature. I cut the food open, look at the packaging, and think about how I was served.”

Pili carries everything he needs to assess the quality of a portion of fish and chips (probes, laser infra-red thermometers, a checklist that runs to 184 points, spare hair nets, torches) in a suitcase. It never leaves his side.

He checks seals on fridges, looks for ingrained dirt in strange places, and pokes mirrors through the underside of closed doors. He wants to be sure chip shops are following every health and safety regulation and all paperwork is in order. And this is before he’s even tasted so much as a fish cake.

Pili inspecting the kitchen at Poppie’s.

Pili inspecting the kitchen at Poppie’s.

On initial inspection, Poppie’s has all the signs of a chippy you’d want to eat in. It’s busy with lunchtime trade and people are queuing outside to pick up takeaways from smartly uniformed staff. The walls are covered in memorabilia from the 1950s and paintings by the Kray twins, and a genuine old-time jukebox cranks out hits from the corner.

Fortunately, the back of the shop doesn’t let the front down, otherwise we’d have a problem.

“I always start at the back of the premises and I work my way through stage by stage,” Pili explains. “You see, most shops have a very nice front-of-house but you have no idea what’s going on at the back. I want to know where they leave the refuse. I’m interested in that.”

There are about 30 Seafish judges sniffing around the bins of chip shops across the UK. Pili has been doing it since 1991.

“It’s hard work,” he says, “But the good thing about fish and chips is that it’s regional. What they do in London might not be acceptable in the Midlands or the North, so you have to take the differences into account. It’s not like if you go to McDonald’s for a burger and wherever you go it’s the same. It doesn’t work that way.”

Poppie’s owner Pat Newland.

Poppie’s owner Pat Newland.

The variation keeps the job interesting, with judges given a different patch to cover each year so that chippy owners don’t recognise them. Pili tells me he has been as far north as Shetland (“What a game it was to get there!”), as well as over to Plymouth: “I drove all the way there and all the way back—in the rain both ways—and got busted for driving in a bus lane. Twice.”

For all the lengths Pili has travelled, judges can still end up visiting places more than once.

“We have to wear disguises,” says Pili. “I’ve been in as a country gent with my shooting jacket and a hat. I’ve been in as a railway worker in fluorescents. I’ve been in as an old man with a wig on and a stick, shuffling along. They expect someone with a suitcase coming to inspect so we have to catch them out.”

Fish and chips bought and logged, Pili will then return in his guise as Poirot-with-a-torch in his whites with his tools.

“I go in eyes open, open mind, clipboard and pad, start looking, and record everything,” he says.

Moving through Poppie’s following this list, Pili seems generally impressed, approving of the choice of oil, the freshness of the fish, the allergen menu displayed for customers to see, and the portion size. Poppie’s is also one of the few fish and chip shops that has an on-site fishmonger.

“A lot of fish and chip shops use frozen fish,” explains Newland. “And they don’t change their oil regularly. They think they’re saving money but all they’re doing is losing custom.”

Traditional cod and chips at Poppie’s.

Traditional cod and chips at Poppie’s.

These points of pride are the things Pili looks for.

“Is the fish fresh or frozen at sea? Are they preparing their own chips or buying them in? What range are they frying on?” he asks. “What oil are they using? How often do they change it? All these things make a difference.”

This is all well and good but I am not going to poke around a chip shop’s bins, neither am I going to ask to see the back of the shop nor wave a torch around at the fridges. So what should I, the ordinary punter, be looking for in a good plate of chips?

As I tuck into my plate of traditional cod and chips, I notice Pili is surveying his pensively.

“First of all, I can smell a lovely aroma,” he says, leaning in. “The chips are freshly fried, a good colour, and when you squeeze them corner to corner, they keep their shape. That’s all good. Crispy on the outside, soft in the middle.”

Pili then turns his attention to the fish.

“Sometimes, you can take the fish out and you could use the batter as a glasses case. That’s no good.”

With almost surgical care, he makes an incision into the batter and peels it back. I look underneath.

“Is there any white, or yellow, or gunge?” he asks. “Those are all signs it’s not cooked properly.”

There is no white, or yellow, or gunge. “All I can see is batter,” I say.

Pili agrees: “Which means it was cooked at the right temperature. And the fish is white and flaky which is good.”

He pauses and finally takes a mouthful. And then another. And another. We pass a few moments together in companionable silence, just eating fish and chips.

“It’s quite good,” Pili says. “I’m enjoying this.”

After all the Poirot-style poking around, Poppie’s still passes the Pili test. High praise indeed from the man who eats fish and chips for a living.

For more on traditional British dishes, check out the MUNCHIES Guide to British Food, running every day this week on MUNCHIES.

Sandwell chippy gives opposition a battering in latest awards

Michael Pili, from the Midland Seafish Industry, and Mike Artemis, owner of Starfish chip shop

Michael Pili, from the Midland Seafish Industry, and Mike Artemis, owner of Starfish chip shop

A fish and chip restaurant has found the recipe for success after receiving a prestigious award.

The Starfish restaurant in Tividale has scooped the Fish and Chip Quality Award from the National Federation of Fish Friers (NFFF), the trade body representing the UK's fish and chip shops and manager Owner Michael Artemis said: "It is a great honour to be awarded this prestigious award. It is a really good pat on the back for all the staff who work extremely hard."

The award recognises restaurants that provide good quality products and high standards of hygiene, as well as friers that show a high level of competence.

It is a happy double for The Starfish, which also received the top '5' rating under Sandwell Council's Food Hygiene Rating Scheme.

Mr Artemis added: "Hopefully it will generate a bit of good publicity for the business and bring a bit more footfall through the doors to try the good quality fish and chips."

The NFFF award has been given to 300 restaurants and shops throughout the UK which meet the required standards, after being inspected by an NFFF approved assessor who looks at the shop's cleanliness, presentation, hygiene, staff training, frying and sales skills and the quality of the product.

The award aims to set the new benchmark for standards within the industry and to give the consumer confidence that they will be buying a good quality product at outlets with the award displayed, encouraging more outlets to raise their standards.

The local authority award means that Starfish has 'very good' hygiene standards.

"It is the first time we have received this award, which is a quality award recognised by the industry," Mr Artemis added.