Salt and vinegar are important. But, according to Alan Hanna, it is commitment to quality and team work that are the key ingredients for making Northern Ireland’s best chips.
And Mr Hanna should know the secret of good food because his Kilkeel chippy, Pit-Stop, has been crowned Takeaway Fish and Chip Shop of the Year for the second time in a row.
“The Pit-Stop team and I are over the moon,” he told the Belfast Telegraph. “To be named the best in Northern Ireland for the second year in a row proves that we are not one-time wonders and that we have continued to raise the bar for ourselves. We also won the title in 2005, but to take it for the second year in a row is really something special.
“I would say our secret to success is commitment to quality and trying to always improve. Even though we won last year, we didn’t sit back or rest on our laurels.”
Pit-Stop saw off tough competition from some of Ulster’s best-known chippies, including The Galley in Annalong and Ballymoney’s Flash in the Pan — and is now up against the best the rest of the UK has to offer.
Mr Hanna (43), a father-of-two and a joiner by trade, praised all those who were in competition with Pit-Stop.
The winners were decided after judges made an unannounced visit to the shop and assessed everything from product quality, customer service, food preparation procedures, hygiene, innovation, staff training and development, promotional activity and approaches to sustainable sourcing.
“We have owned the shop since 1990 and this has to be one of the highlights of our 21 years in business,” added Mr Hanna.
The UK winner will be revealed at a glittering ceremony in London in January.
Pit-Stop opened in Kilkeel in 1990. It has won the title Takeaway Fish and Chip Shop of the Year in 2005, 2010 and now 2011.
It also scooped a Northern Ireland Good Food Guide Chip Shop Award for the best in Co Down and Northern Ireland. Haddock and chips, a popular dish, costs £5.25 for a hefty portion.
The chippy uses frozen haddock and cod from sustainable sources.