What inspired you to set up The Fresh Fish Shop?
I was born in Venezuela and raised in the UK and France so I grew up surrounded by fresh produce and with a love of good, seasonal food made simply. In my twenties I was a tour leader for a travel company and ventured all over Europe. Travelling from France through to Belgium, across to Holland, and onto Germany, Austria, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece I sampled all of the local cuisine and it reignited my passion for quality, local produce. When I returned from my travels I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime. A friend’s father, who owned The Fresh Fish Shop at the time, was moving to Spain and wanted to sell the fishmongers which had been established in Haywards Heath, West Sussex for well over 30 years. Despite never handling fish professionally before I jumped at the opportunity. Spending early mornings at Billingsgate Fish Market, hand picking fresh fish, I quickly learnt about quality, provenance and how to sell. My hard
work paid off and I have since been recognised as one of only a few ‘Master Fishmongers’ in the UK, and I am very proud to be an advocate for our industry.
How has the business developed since you took over?
In the early days we supplied several local restaurants with fresh fish and seafood. After 12 years we still proudly maintain our high street presence but the business has grown in a very different direction. In 2013 I had a call from a well established supplier who wanted me to package sustainably-sourced, quality fresh fish for them to sell in their ethical grocery store. It was something I’d never done before and it sparked an exciting new direction for the business. From there on our wholesale
arm of the business began working with more and more retailers with a primary focus on quality,sustainability and provenance. We now supply over 60 retailers today.
Why do you think independent food shops are so important?
When my family moved to the UK in 1996 it was a culinary culture shock! At the time the big retailers dominated and convenience was king. Despite Haywards Heath traditionally being a market town the major multiples had moved in and the decline of the high street had begun. In most of Europe, even though larger supermarkets exist, the love for good quality, fresh food drives people to
shop more locally and through artisan producers and suppliers. Fast forward a few years and it seems that the UK is now waking up to this style of food shopping and sourcing again. Despite two major supermarkets opening within 100 metres of our shop, our retail sales continue to grow and many customers have remained loyal to us since the very beginning. We want to encourage as many people as possible to shop local, buy local and eat local so we try to inspire our customers – and
keep them coming back for more – by providing cooking tips, recipes and culinary advice, alongside every purchase they make with us.
Where do you source your fish?
We are committed to protecting fish stocks and, wherever possible, our fish is sourced from small day boats along the South Coast – from Sussex all the way across to Cornwall – using low impact fishing methods. We work with specialist importers for our sushi grade, line caught tuna and swordfish and our salmon is from Loch Duart, which is RSPCA and Freedom Food-approved. All of
our produce is clearly labelled with information about how and where each fish is caught for complete transparency from sea to serve.
How many different types of fish do you sell?
We stock over 100 fresh fish and seafood products. We also offer an array of locally sourced foods, such as honey made less than five miles away from our shop, locally-made bread, and biodynamic eggs.
Do you have a particular favourite fish?
I honestly love all fish! No matter what type of mood you are in, or cooking style you favour, there is always a fish to match. For me, fish is the ultimate fast food as it requires so little time to prepare and cook.
What does the future hold for the business? We are continuing to expand our packaged fish business and we have recently launched a range of
oven-ready and marinated fish dishes, so you can enjoy a delicious meal in minutes. We have recently relaunched our website and developed an online shop so you can now buy fresh fish directly from us and have it delivered straight to your door no matter where in the UK you live. I hope you’ll give us at try!