It was the 28th August and at the Belgian Grand Prix from Spa, Martin Brundle was reporting from the starting grid and it was just about to rain. He bumped into Eric Clapton, as you do, and asked him who he thought had the best chance of winning. He responded that it would be the driver who had best feel of the car in his hands. I imagine Eric Clapton puts his genius and guitar skills down to the feeling that runs down his arms to his fingers. In fact the same is true for most people that have a skill that marks them as out of the ordinary. This is what can be said about 27 year old David Preest, who Severn & Wye Smokery plucked off the streets of Gloucester at the tender age of sixteen. You can teach people filleting skills but David learned quickly and a knife in his hands put him in the expert category. David only works for us part time now but Richard decided to enter him in the British Fish Craft Championships held at Cardiff Bay this year. This competition is open to fishmongers from all over the country as well as the major supermarkets such as Tesco and Morrisons and major wholesalers like M&J Seafood who encourage their best staff to enter. With over fifty contestants David came 1st in one category and 4th in two others. Richard thinks David is one of the most talented fish filleters he has seen and entered him primarily to gain experience but we are now really excited about his prospects in next year’s competition. If any customer would like to send any of their kitchen staff to improve their knife filleting skills we are not promising medals or trophies but precision fish filleting is a useful kitchen skill to have.
August has flown by, and although traditionally a quiet month, a number of events have kept us busy. We had a nice feature about VAR Salmon and Severn & Wye Smokery in the Saturday Telegraph’s colour supplement on the 13th August (the online article is here). Var salmon is our premium salmon supplied from the Faroe Islands. Our customers are increasingly deciding that the quality of this fish outweighs the price difference of what else is on offer and are taking the decision to switch to Var.
September certainly marks the end of the summer and we now embark with some seriousness on the food festival season. This weekend kicks off with the Alex James (bass guitarist with Blur not in the same category as Eric) Harvest Food and Music Festival. On the music front the offering is The Kooks, K T Tunstall, Fat Freddy’s Drop and The Feeling amongst others. Whatever happened to Joni Mitchell and Fairport Convention? On the food front he has performing what can only be described as the celeb chef A list. Topping the bill are Hugh F-W, Richard Corrigan and Mark Hix with a supporting cast drawn from Stevie Parle, Valentine Warner, Rachel Allen, Tom Parker Bowles, Jay Rayner + many others. I quote from Alex’s website “fine food is the alter we kneel before and the chefs below are the deities that make us sing Hosanna. We’re not stuffy, we believe in good food for everyone” and tongue in cheek I’ll second that. I like a bit of fun but Alex, why oh why have you sold your soul to Asda with the new Alex James Presents cheese range? This includes such offerings as Cheddar and Tikka Masala, Cheddar and Tomato Ketchup Blankets, Cheddar and Salad Cream Blankets and Spudsworth Cheddar Cubes for melting over potatoes. On the 160gm packet it claims there is enough to melt over 4 portions of potatoes, well not in our house it wouldn’t. I think melted cheese on potatoes is a carbohydrate hit that should only be consumed in snowy alpine conditions but that’s just my opinion.
I should be careful slinging stones as we shall be making our food festival debut at Dartmouth this year (21st - 23rd October). Our first mini smoke shed is now complete and working, in fact we were so impressed with how well it worked we are working on a second model. All that's left now is to decide what products we shall be offering. What I can assure you of is that smoked cheese will not be on the menu (I hope that doesn't give Alex any ideas). The Dartmouth Food Fest will be in the middle of most children’s half term, so customers coming down to see us with their families will be assured a Severn & Wye welcome. More of that in our next newsletter.