Hartlepool fishmonger batters opposition to retain national title
A fishmonger has earned a proud “plaice” in his profession’s history books by winning a prestigious national contest for the second time in a row.
Andrew Barker, 40, from Hartlepool, is only the second person to clinch consecutive Fishmonger of the Year awards in the competition’s 67-year history.
Mr Barker, who works for the town’s Hodgson Fish company, retained the National Federation of Fishmongers title by defeating around 50 rivals in this year’s final in Cardiff.
Entrants were judged over five rounds on a series of skills such as speed, safety, cleanliness, presentation and how much fish they can cut from the bone.
Mr Barker, from Roseberry Road, said afterwards: “I am still buzzing about it. Only two people have done back-to-back wins in the competition’s history.”
Wife Rhian, 40, a teaching assistant at Hartlepool’s Jesmond Gardens Primary School, was also present to watch him receive the shield after travelling to the final for the first time in the 14 years since he started entering.
Mr Barker, who has worked as a fish filleter for Hodgson Fish for six years, added: “It made me feel even better than last year for her to see me actually win.
“It looks like she might be back next year as well because she has been asked to help with the competition’s admin.”
But will Mr Barker himself be back himself to seek a hat trick?
He said: “Everyone here wants me to go back to try to get a third in a row. But I’ve been asked to become a judge and you can’t get much higher than that.
“I’m not too sure yet what to do. If I go back as a judge then at least I remain an undefeated winner.”
While Mr Barker, who is dad to Robert, 14, and Carys, nine, admits he prefers a “juicy steak” to fish, he adds: “I do still like fish although I do not eat a lot of it and I enjoy working with them.”
Hodgson Fish, which is based at Hartlepool Fish Quay and has a shop in the town’s Whitby Street, employs around 90 staff.