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CHIP LEADERS!

Isle of Ely Produce Launch Chip Ambassador Roles with Agrico

By Austen Dack

Cambridgeshire potato merchant Isle of Ely Produce have launched a new platform to promote the great British Chip. Its aim will be to carry on the good work it has been promoting via their hugely successful open days, and the ‘Field to Frier’ award it sponsors at the National Fish and Chip Awards.

The Chip Ambassadors will become part of an UK wide group of shop owners and fryers who will promote best practice for potato buying, storing and of course frying. The chain will also include key growers too, as IOE looks to cement the relationships they have grown across the whole supply chain over the last ten years.

An important area where these new ambassadors will be utilised is to sample any significant new varieties that come into the marketplace. With this in mind Agrico have partnered with Isle of Ely Produce to bring two such varieties into the trade initially via our Chip Ambassadors.  The two varieties Babylon and Lugano will be sampled at some of the CA’s to back up the results of early trial successes.

One of the first shops to sign up to the scheme is Shap Chippy, near Penrith. Matt Phillips co-owner said. “We are delighted to get involved with this as we have seen the good work Isle of Ely do at their open days, this will take that work into the chip shops themselves, where we can report on various issues we have with the potatoes and or varieties which in turn can be fed back to the merchants & growers.”

Oliver Boutwood Isle of Ely Director says. “We have met so many great chip shop owners over the years, all who have brilliant knowledge of what it takes to choose, store and of course fry a potato. We have supplied enough potatoes during that time to serve over 600 million portions of chips. This new scheme will give us even more information across the UK, that we can use to make sure we have the right variety in supply at all times.”

To help launch the scheme Oliver visited Shap on the eve of National Fish & Chip day, to try Babylon for himself.

He said “It was great to visit the Shap team and see their knowledge and enthusiasm first-hand. To have our Chip Ambassadors trying samples and giving us valuable feedback is valuable for the whole industry. Babylon offers the customer outstanding frying and eating qualities that challenge Agria, whilst Lugano offers a sustainable future for the grower in the fight against potato cyst nematode (PCN), while producing excellent frying and eating quality for the customer.”

Alex Moore, Agrico UK Sales Manager said: “Our varieties have made up a large proportion of the potatoes supplied to the chip shop sector over the years. However, previously we have had very little interaction with the shops themselves. We are thrilled to be working closely with the Chip Ambassadors to launch two of our exciting new varieties. As a business we are always trying to breed better tasting and more sustainable potato varieties. In Babylon and Lugano we have both! We place a lot of emphasis on product management and this link with the Chip Ambassadors, Isle of Ely and the growers will help us ensure that each area of the supply chain know how to get the best out of Agico varieties, to give the end customer the best chips they can buy.”

Gregg Howard – The Chip Shed 

Next up to try Babylon was Gregg Howard owner of the Chip Shed in Bourton on the Water. Gregg has been in the fish and chi industry all of his life and has several shops mainly based around the Midlands. A past president of the NFFF, Gregg is no stranger to Isle of Ely Produce, having opened the open day in Ely at least twice whilst in position. The new Chip Shed brand boasts three shops now and it looks like they will continue to grow too.

Gregg said “We have been associated with Isle of Ely Produce and their potatoes for many years and have them delivered to our shops via our wholesaler. When we were asked to try a new variety from Agrico, (Babylon) we were only too pleased to do it.” 

It was great to visit the Chip Shed team and see their set up and enthusiasm first-hand. To have Chip Ambassadors like Gregg trying samples and giving us valuable feedback is valuable for the whole industry.  

 

Gregg said of Babylon “It was a clean big and bold sample, with easy preparation. They fried very well in the pan and held up in the chip box too. Our customers enjoy a rich coloured chip and we are looking forward to trying some more as they tasted excellent too.” 

Ian & Jane Wallis (& Chris Marks – Burton (Ed Sheeran) too).

Recently I took a trip to the East Coast to see Henry’s of Hunstanton. A fantastic shop which has had a £1M transformation from a former library to a lovely fish and chip restaurant. Despite covid Ian & Jane remained upbeat having had a reasonable good summer season and eat out to help out period too. They have remained open almost all through the pandemic.

Henry’s Summer 2019

Ian said “We were only too pleased to try this variety in our shop. We know and respect Agrico, and Isle of Ely Produce, and are proud to be part of something so important. Every week we look for the best potatoes for our customers and are always looking for the next best variety to come into the marketplace.” 

Chris said “We are on Sagittas at the moment. The first thing that struck me was the colour difference. Babylon are a rich yellow colour even before frying. Babylon were great to peel, and chip with little effort needed prerumbler. It was a good clean bold sample. They fried very well and I would be very happy to serve these to my customers on a regular basis.” 

Jane said of Babylon “Wow what a lovely tasty chip. They fried so well and were of a good size. They were fluffy in the middle and crisped well on the outside too.” 

I look forward to seeing the team at Henry’s again soon

 

ISLE OF ELY SAY YES TO BABYLON!

Before any samples hit the shop the team at Isle of Ely will always fry a bag to see how they are before they reach the chip shop. Recently Austen Dack Chippy chat Publishing Editor joined Matthew Grindling Seed and Potato Procurement Manager at Isle of Ely Produce to see how exactly how this process works, and to try Babylon just a few miles from where they were grown at AL Lee Farming Company, here in Ely. 

Isle of Ely Produce have their own mini fish and chip shop sample room. With a rumbler, chipper and fryer the Babylon potatoes were soon prepared fried and ready to try. 

Matthew said, “On first site the Babylon looks like it’s going to be great news for fish friers. With little prep and a bold sample, I’m hoping they taste as good as they look.” 

We weren’t disappointed. They looked and tasted great. Matthew added “Babylon is the best sample we have had through the sample room this year, its bright yellow flesh colour combined with the 00-fry colour ticks all the boxes, more than a match for Agria! 

 

Pimp My Fish! – February

This month we took to the road and asked a top mobile operator his thoughts on Babylon as a new variety. John Hudgell owns and runs Pimp my Fish in and around Cambridge.  

“We need a chip that will prep easily with little waste, and then fry consistently well”. John said.  “On first look Babylon seem to be ideal for a mobile van operator. They taste great, the fry colour is a lovely golden colour and the customers seem to like them too. Babylon is definitely a variety we will add to our list when we are ordering our potatoes!” 

In March I visited Petrou Brothers in Chatteris, Cambs to get their opinion of new chipping breed Babylon. This was a big test as the brothers are former winners of the top gong at the National Fish & Chip Awards. 

I met with Mark ahead of a busy Friday shift. He was soon joined by brother Peter. With a busy walk in shop and a slick delivery operation too, they are looking for a chipping potato that not only will be great fresh out of the bag but also holds up over a few minutes before they get delivered too. Soon I was lucky enough to try the famous Petrou fish and chips (Babylon) for myself. The fish was perfectly cooked and covered in their own secret recipe batter. The chips tasted great too, more than holding their own next to their ocean trawled accompaniment. They were crisp to touch, a great colour and fluffy on the inside. 

Mark said “First off the preparation was easy. They were a nice bold sample that cleaned up nicely with little work to do on them. I was impressed with the way they fry too. They carry a lovely colour, fry consistency well and taste great. They hold up in the chip box well. They look as good as a Markie but not as dry. With a clean taste – not earthy. It was a very good sample. I look forward to seeing how Babylon evolves and for our local farmers to grow more, as we would certainly order them based on today’s sample.” 

 

In April it was the turn of Eric’s at Thornham. I met with owner Eric Snaith and manager Craig Blythe ahead of a busy Friday shift. It was a bit different to my previous visit. Eric’s is very much a destination shop, and somewhere to sit and dine not far from the North Norfolk Coast. In covid times, the large sit in area is redundant, with the team very much reliant on incoming orders on their new(ish) click and collect service. 

Armed with some pre-cut Babylon I gave them to Craig to fry alongside some Sagitta. Their KFE range, is one of the longest in Europe, and is ready for the expectant deluge of customers once restrictions are lifted and the stay cation culture of 2020 resumes. 

Once cooked and plated, both Eric and Craig tucked into some Babylon chips. Eric was impressed by the fry colour, crispy outside and size of the sample. Craig said Babylon compared well to the well proven Sagitta, and tasted great. Both said they would be happy to add it to the list of varieties that their three shops order in the near future. 

 

This month I visited French’s Fish & Chips in Wells Next to Sea. I met with owner Marcus French ahead of a busy Friday shift. It is a big year for Marcus and the team, as this year they are celebrating 100 years of fish and chips in the town a massive achievement over seen by Marcus for over a third of this tally! French’s is one of the best fish and chip shops in the UK and very much a destination shop for over 50 miles around.  

Armed with some pre-cut Babylon I gave them to Marcus to fry alongside some Maris Piper. Their Florigo range, is equipped to cope with a very busy seaside queue, and was ready for the expectant deluge of customers already starting to gather outside as we arrived pre-opening. 

Once cooked and plated, both myself and my wife Sarah tucked into some Babylon chips with some fantastic FAS cod. Marcus too tried some chips. He was impressed by the fry colour, crispy outside and size of the sample. He also said that they compared really well to his usual supply of piper, and he would look out for Babylon next season for use in his shop. 

 

Chip shop owners already signed as Chip Ambassadors for Isle of Ely Produce are Colin Cromer – The Fish Hoose, Kerry Brennan – Golden Union, David Henley – Henley’s, Richard Ord Jr – Colmans, Eric Snaith – Eric’s, Kelly & Tim Barnes – Krispies, Lauren Kellaway – Kellaways, Charlie Collins – Frydales, Fred Capel- Chez Fred, Matt & Ashley Phillips – Shap Chippy, Malachy Mallon The Dolphin Takeaway, Richard Foster – Fish and Chips at Weston Grove, Emir Hikary – Hiks, Alan Shillingford – Shillingfords, Gregg Howard The Chip Shed, Ian Wallis Henry’s Mark Petrou Petrou Brothers, Marcus French French’s Fish & Chips and Sarah Heward – The Real Food Café.

Email austen@isleofely.co.uk if you too would like to become a Chip Ambassador.

If you would like to be a chip ambassador and try the new varieties please email austen@chippychat.co.uk