This is part of a series celebrating Morecambe’s Finest, the personalities and unsung heroes who make our town great. Reporter GREG LAMBERT speaks to John Wild, the laughing fish and chip man who is one of Britain’s best friers.
John Wild’s earliest memory was his grandad taking him to Crowther’s Oyster Bar near the Winter Gardens.
“I’d have a plate of cockles whilst he’d enjoy his oysters,” he recalls.
Years later, John’s love of fish would bring about a major change in his life.
After 18 years working as a driving instructor, John and his wife Hilary were looking to do something different.
“We were looking at running a small hotel or guesthouse but couldn’t see anything we wanted.
“I remember seeing a fish and chip shop in a magazine in Torquay and said to my wife, what about that?”
The Wilds took over the Packet Bridge Chippy in Bolton-le-Sands in 1999 and never looked back.
Today, sand grown’un John runs Tarnbrook Chippy in Heysham and has just won his second National Fish Friers Federation (NFFF) Fish & Chip Quality Award.
The award is the benchmark for the fish and chip industry and John’s skills were even recognised this week by David Morris MP, who donned the whites at his chippy to learn the tricks of the fish frying trade.
“It’s down to the people of Heysham for nominating us,” says John.
But what is the secret of his success?
“I think it’s attention to detail,” he says.
“We do things right, and if there’s a problem I just call my fellow fish friers for advice.”
After spending a day at Tarnbrook Chippy, David Morris praised John for the amount of work that goes into creating the perfect fish and chips.
The fish has to be battered to high standards and the chips cooked at the correct temperature for the correct period of time.
John believes the good old British chippy has as important a role to play in our eating habits, especially in Morecambe where there is such a strong tradition of seaside fish and chip shops.
“Fish and chips are still the nation’s number one takeaway,” he said.
“David Cameron has just endorsed them as part of the British psyche.”
As an expert in the fish frying field, John is often called upon to give his opinions on the trade as a ‘talking head’.
“I get phoned up all the time and asked all sorts of strange questions, like if there really is a national shortage of cod or haddock.
“The BBC once asked me about how many holes there should ideally be in a salt shaker,”
Charismatic John is also known for his offbeat sense of humour and attention-grabbing stunts.
Whether he’s trying to win a national fish and chip-themed song contest by dressing as Tom Jones, or selling battered mince pies at Christmas to raise money for the Morecambe lifeboat crew, or driving a van with a giant replica shark on the roof, John still strives to be different.
But the one thing that always stays the same is the quality of his fish and chips!