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The comeback kid 

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Drywite Young Fish Frier of the Year 2024 winner Jamie Russo

After a three-year gap due to Covid, the Drywite Young Fish Frier Award finally made a comeback at this year’s National Fish & Chip Awards in February, with the title going to 23-year-old Jamie Russo, owner of Redcloak Fish Bar in Stonehaven, Aberdeen

I was so glad to see the Drywite Young Fish Frier Award return. I entered it in 2020 when I was 18 and, of course, you enter to win but at that time I was nowhere near ready to win. The feedback I received from the judges, however, was incredible and that helped me to win this year because I was able to make changes and implement their feedback to improve my processes. 

Winning Drywite Young Fish Frier is such a great achievement. I didn’t expect it, it was such a shock when my name was read out. But it helps cement the fact that what I’m doing is right, and the fact that the same people who judged me back in 2020 acknowledged that I’d made positive improvements from their feedback means so much. 

The shop has got busier since the awards – we won Best Newcomer as well – so in the four weeks following the awards we were up 40% on turnover. It’s a massive jump and I have to say the staff have dealt with the busier shop brilliantly.

For anyone thinking about entering Drywite Young Fish Frier this year I would say you’d be daft not to. The feedback is so valuable; it helps to improve your practices, it gives you new ideas and there’s the advertising that comes alongside it. Even from the first stage, the local papers got involved.

The other thing is the opportunities that the award opens up – and you don’t even have to win to feel the benefits. KFE put on a skills training day for all the semi-finalists earlier in the year where we all got to meet for the first time while also putting our skills to the test. 

Since winning, I’ve been invited to Norway with Seafood from Norway, which I’m so looking forward to. I’ve also been invited to Japan by the Hankyu department store but unfortunately, I don’t think I’m able to go. With the shop being so new I just don’t have the staff to cover the 10-12 days I’ll be away for. It’s a great opportunity but it’s just not the right time for me to leave my business. 

I am attending a training day next month at the NFFF headquarters in Leeds for any potential Young Fish Frier applicants. The idea is to talk about the award while also going through some training, so anyone who is interested please do come along and find out more. There’s absolutely nothing to lose from entering. Just don’t put too much pressure on yourself and enjoy the process because you get to meet so many other young friers. I’ve made friends for life and it’s great to have these connections – people your own age who are in a similar position. 

The whole friendship side of the award is brilliant, we’ve missed it for the last three years and I’m so glad that it is back. At the end of the day, we are the future of fish and chips and we all must work together to align our goals – which is to see fish and chips grow and flourish. 

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