Welcome to our very first meet the chef! Calum talks about his Naval career, finding his passion for food, and overcoming the stereotypes associated with his successful Stonehaven business.
What is your business?
I opened The Bay in 2006, so we’ve celebrated the businesses tenth anniversary. Since opening, our passion for local produce and sustainability has put Stonehaven on the ‘food map’. The Bay is amongst the most highly rated restaurants in the UK from the Sustainable Restaurant Association and was also the first fish and chip business to receive the Marine Stewardship Council accreditation for 100% traceability of our North Sea haddock from sea to plate.
The Bay’s white fish comes from Coupers in Aberdeen, the langoustines are sourced from local boats in nearby Gourdon and the lobsters from Stonehaven harbour, just a stone’s throw from The Bay itself.
The Bay’s specials board always shows the ‘Catch of the Day’, which features the freshest in-season fish straight from the market that morning, and also the farm that grew the potatoes used for The Bay’s chips. This ensures full traceability, from sea to plate and field to fork.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
As well as being an ambassador for Scottish seafood and Scottish fishermen, I am the face and voice of The Bay, promoting the benefits of sustainability, health and nutrition, environmentally friendly business practice and Scotland’s natural larder at all times. I am a constant support for my team at The Bay, doing all I can to promote fish and chips in a positive light.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
1989 – 1997: Joined and worked in the Navy
1997 – 1999: Left the Navy and managed a fish and chip shop
1999 – 2006: Owned my first fish and chip shop
2006 – Current: Opened the award-winning Bay Fish & Chips in Stonehaven
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Being a great listener, and being able to easily adapt to new situations. As well as taking responsibility for the future of the company, it’s about getting stuck in with all parts of the business and showing your staff that it’s all about teamwork.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
The biggest challenge has always been trying to make staff realise that there are exciting career prospects in this industry and that it’s not just a stopgap job. There are so many great opportunities to work towards, and awards to enter.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
Being on your feet all day can be quite demanding so I like to relax by spending time with my friends and family, eating in nice restaurants and enjoying great food and drink.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I’d always wanted to join the Navy, as a chef or a photographer, so I went along to the careers office at school and they told me I was better suited to be an engineer - so that’s what I did. I loved it, travelling around the world and tasting all the different foods in each country. Eventually I joined a small ship with only 30 people on board and I spent half my time cooking in the galley. It was then that I realised that was what I really wanted to do.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
My biggest bugbear in this industry has to be the mindset that people still have about fish and chip shops. It’s still considered the unhealthiest takeaway but if you go to the right shop, a shop that cares about sourcing, sustainability and flavour, it couldn’t be further from the truth.
I work hard to promote and showcase the best of British fish and chips and have made a major step forward in changing the stereotypical, and often negative, preconceptions of a fish and chip shop by presenting the food and premises in a positive and sustainable light.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
The focus is on continual positive growth for the business, whist continuing to be highly respected ambassadors for Scottish seafood and Scottish fishermen. In five years time, I’d still like to have a one-shop unit but I want lots of branches of The Bay branded products.
I’d like to continue entering awards for The Bay and The Bay’s products to raise awareness of Scottish sustainable produce to a worldwide audience. Our Bay-branded fishcakes are in the running for the ‘Best New Foodservice Product’ award at the North East Scotland Food & Drink Awards this week. It’s awards like these that help to build our reputation locally, nationally and internationally.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
When making business decisions make sure you don’t have tunnel vision. The decisions need to be your own. It’s okay for things to go wrong as long as you learn from your mistakes.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Even though the rewards are high it’s important to understand that unsociable hours go hand in hand with careers in the food and drink industry. You need to be in it for the love as the days and hours are long!