MILLS AND BOOM!
From Hakata to Haxby – 10,000 new fans in Japan
By Nick & David Miller
We’ve just returned home from Japan after being invited out there to take part in the Hankyu British Fair 2018, proudly representing the UK’s fish and chip industry. What an incredible experience it’s been! The Hankyu British Fair takes place every year at the Hankyu department stores in Fukuoka and Osaka with over half a million visitors immersing themselves in British culture and food.
We arrived in Fukuoka on Tuesday and were shown around the Hakata Hankyu Department Store and the area we’d be frying in. The set up was absolutely perfect and it had our branding all over the place – it was strange to feel so at home over 5500 miles away in a different country.
The department stores themselves were incredibly impressive. They were huge, especially in comparison to the department stores we have in the UK. The Umeda Hankyu department store is one of the largest in Japan with over 13 floors of shopping and restaurants.
The Hakata British Fair officially opened the next day on Wednesday and we started serving our first of many hungry visitors to the fair. Everybody visiting our stall was so kind and welcoming. We started picking up bits of the Japanese language and the more people we spoke to the more we learned that the vast majority of the people we were serving thought me and Dad were brothers (I’m not sure where the compliment leans toward there!).
We were cooking for seven days in total and in that time, served close to 11,000 portions of fish and chips, breaking the previous record for the number of fish and chips sold at the event. The days were incredibly busy. We often had to get down earlier than a lot of the other traders to make sure that we had enough time to prep the fish and make our tartare sauce from scratch. Queues reached about 150-people deep and we were blown away by the fact that some people were queuing for hours just to try our fish and chips.
Even though the trip was a whirlwind and we saw so many people during our stay, there were some real stand out moments we will never forget. One couple who had been students in York and visited the shop had travelled all the way from Tokyo! We were keen to make sure that we served them a perfect portion of fish and chips to make their journey worthwhile.
We also had a visitor who grew up in Haxby and had made a special trip to come and see us. We knew him immediately, because his Mum used to come into the shop at 11:30 every day to pick up a Lite Bite for his Grandfather. Seeing a familiar face from home so many miles away in Japan was a really lovely moment. We couldn’t believe that it really is such a small world, or that so many of us are tied together by fish and chips!
We made the decision to spend an extra two days in Japan so we could visit some attractions and enjoy more of their delicious food – and we tried a lot! Before we even arrived in Japan, we made a promise to ourselves that we’d try as many different things as possible. This involved sampling everything from intestines to chicken hearts and tongues. Breakfast was an interesting experience after we discovered what we presumed were boiled eggs weren’t boiled at all – they weren’t even cooked. A lot of people in Japan start the day with a bowl of boiled rice mixed with a raw egg. Trying it once was enough for us!
And whilst we’ll say no to raw eggs and we prefer our fish fried, we couldn’t resist tucking into the raw seafood that was available. We were lucky enough to sample some of the best sushi available and to have tucked into cooked dishes like fried scallops and piped mackerel.
Since we’ve arrived back in Haxby, the hard work has continued. In the run-up to Christmas, we hosted a number of events including a special collaboration meal with York Gin Co. Of course, we’ll return to the National Fish and Chip Awards to hand over the trophy to the next worthy winners. What an incredible journey 2018 has been!
Austen Dack said “What an amazing custodian of the award Millers have been, thanks from all at Chippy Chat. The whole team has been so giving in a year when trade has increased and the focus has been on them from day one. This is just the start for Millers, and we wish them well as they continue their amazing journey.