Chip shop wins 'industry Oscar'

A CHIP shop owner has said he is still in shock after 12 years of hard work and £100,000 of investment saw his restaurant named the best in the region and shortlisted for a prestigious national award.

Elliot Furniss

A CHIP shop owner has said he is still in shock after 12 years of hard work and £100,000 of investment saw his restaurant named the best in the region and shortlisted for a prestigious national award.

John McNeil opened Scooby Snax Fish and Chip Restaurant in Brightlingsea four years ago and his passion for the industry and his attention to detail have proved a recipe for success.

The shop has been named the best chippy in the London and South East region by the judges of the Fish and Chip Shop of the Year competition, organised by Seafish, the authority on seafood.

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Scooby Snax will join the nine other regional finalists at an awards ceremony in a top London hotel next month after beating off competition from the 10,500 chip shops around the UK.

Mr McNeil, who was an RAF chef for 18 years, said he was thrilled at being recognised by the judges, who carried out undercover visits to the site to assess the quality of the food, standard of staff training and customer service, cleanliness and shop décor.

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He said: “I'm in shock - I'm totally over the moon, not just for me but for the girls. I didn't really expect to get this far and I have been doing this for 12 years now.

“I have had four shops over the years and I had three going at once at one point, but I'm more enthusiastic now than I ever have been.

“This is like winning an Oscar or a Bafta - being judged by your peers. It doesn't come better than this.”

Ably assisted by partner Andrea and a nine-strong team, Mr McNeil said the fish and chip business was a “changing industry” and he had looked at every way possible to modernise and organise to provide customers with the best possible service and value for money.

He said: “I work completely on customer service and quality of product. I have high standards for the materials I use and the team I have around me.

“I'm in constant touch with my suppliers and I'm always looking for modern, fresh approaches to the fish industry.

“There's no better industry than this. I find nothing better than spending a 12-hour day here - it's become a way of life.”

What was an empty premises when Mr McNeil bought the shop in 2004 has now been transformed into a 40-seat licensed restaurant with top of the range frying and preparation equipment.

Mr McNeil said he, his partner and their daughter Shannon, nine, had been “really well received” by the Brightlingsea community and thanked his staff for their hard work and customers for their support in helping Scooby Snax to get this far.

Now he is preparing to face the final judging panel of industry experts when he must make a presentation covering a range of subjects, including sustainable sourcing, health and safety and maintaining product quality.

YOU can keep your curries and chuck out your Chinese food, the British fish and chip supper is alive and well in Brightlingsea and now tastes better than ever.

The traditional seaside fare on offer at Scooby Snax is complemented by a large serving of contemporary thinking, with efforts made by owner John McNeil to recycle as much waste as possible and cut down on his carbon footprint.

His chips are hand peeled and cut and his fish are ethically sourced, but there is a real drive to offer a modern dining environment to customers, who can also pick up a griddled tuna steak or swap their fries for a healthy jacket potato.

And the food proved a hit with this reporter as well as the regular customers coming through the doors at a regular rate - about 150 servings on an average day.

The special recipe batter used for the fish and the freshly prepared salad that comes with each restaurant serving help to make Scooby Snax a worthy nominee for the coveted title of Fish and Chip Shop of the Year.

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