A north-east businessman was flying the flag for sustainable fish at COP 26 after being invited to cook up a storm at the event.
Calum Richardson of The Bay Fish and Chips in Stonehaven helped serve up more than 11,000 suppers to hungry delegates and world leaders.
It was the most popular dish and beat all of the other options on offer, apart from the 50,000 plant-based items which were ordered.
In total more than 125,000 food items were served at COP 26.
The entrepreneur who has been running his fish and chip shop on the beachfront in the coastal town for 15 years spent a few days of the 12-day event cooking his products alongside other chefs.
Invited to take part in the event by food and drink firm Levy, which is part of Compass Group UK & Ireland, Calum and his wife Viktorija headed to the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow where COP 26 took place.
Levy specialise in arena catering and have the contract for the SEC.
Showcasing the best of local at COP 26
Initially only envisioning to cook for a few days the first week, the duo made the decision to head back down to the event to lend a hand after seeing how busy the venue and food stalls were.
He said: “I was asked to go down before COP 26 kicked off but I had my children then, so I wasn’t able to. But I went down on the first week for three days. They were pretty short staffed chef-wise – like everywhere is just now – but because it was so busy I decided to go down the following week for a while, too.
“Going back meant the other staff could relax and focus on the other dishes, and that I could focus on the fish and chips.
“I used Amity’s Fish Company’s haddock in the fish suppers. We’re both approved suppliers. To get involved as a supplier you had to have accreditation and prove you had traceability on all of your products.
“It was my fish suppers and my fishcakes that we were serving up and Amity’s fish was used for just the suppers.”
Serving world leaders in the Blue Zone
Working in the Blue Zone which was operated and governed by the United Nations, Calum said while although the venue was busy with bodies, it was hard to catch a glimpse of world leaders as it was their staff collecting the food.
He added: “We were in the Blue Zone run by the United Nations where there was no public allowed. All of the world leaders and delegates were in this area.
“The Green Zone was run by the Scottish Government so the public were allowed – including school children.
“A lot of the big wigs had people coming to get stuff for them. Some people were coming and taking 40 fish and chips away at any one time. If it was the big leaders it was being taken away and being plated up in a different area for them.
“We had an order form a world leader come in. Their staff took four fish suppers away and the individual didn’t get the chance to eat it so they ordered another six. Half an hour later we were told they loved it and they asked for 10 more.
“Other world leaders were asking for it to be taken through to them, and quite a few were asking for more!”
What did he make of it?
Only present for a few days, the entrepreneur whose shop runs on 100% sustainable energy, says that despite being busy, it was getting into the building which proved the hardest challenge.
“It was absolutely heaving – the hardest part was getting into the place. To get through security was quite challenging, especially on the days when the big leaders were in – the volume of people was colossal,” said Calum.
“Coming from such a busy shop it wasn’t as daunting. And having worked at the event in Japan I go to every few years where I have to use unfamiliar equipment, change the way we do things and so on, you just make it happen. That’s exactly how it was.
“You’ve just got to realise you’re not going to mimic something that you put out at home, because it is impossible. But what you are doing is putting out something that is pretty close.
“I was just doing a small bit, some of the team were there weeks before I was and were getting everything set up. Graham Singer (culinary director at Compass Scotland) has put in an immerse amount of work.
“I went back because I wanted to do my bit and lend a hand. It is the biggest thing some people will ever do – cooking for all of these world leaders. Compass usually do two or three day events, but to do a 12 day stint it a lot!”