I had never cooked much seafood at home before the lockdown. It always seemed daunting as I know how delicate fish can be. However, after seeing the excellent items that Chapman’s had to offer, I decided to give it a try. It was immediately evident that the fresh, expertly-sourced products made it easy to cook delicious and simple meals that allowed the main ingredients to shine. It was extremely easy to communicate with the Chapman’s team and with an online store, a 24-hour phone service to take orders and delivery slots from 7 days a week, including Bank Holidays, you can be sure you only get the freshest seafood available. So far, I have ordered scallops, mussels, sea bass, salmon, tuna, and Chalk Stream trout and have created tasty and nutritious meals for me and my husband. I decided to speak with Martin to hear about Chapman’s focus on responsible sourcing and what he would make for dinner at home.
With many of our favourite restaurants shutting their doors, regular diners like myself have been on the prowl for ways to bring our favourite dishes home with us.
Fresh, seasonal, and high-quality ingredients are often difficult to come by for the home cook, but companies like Chapman’s have now started supplying and delivering their locally-sourced seafood to the general public. Chapman’s has been in operation for over 25 years and have supplied fish and all kinds of seafood to some of the best restaurants around the country. “From humble beginnings, our steady growth over 26 years has been based on our consistent high quality and service,” says Martin Budge, Internal Account Manager at Chapman’s. “Our tight and loyal team now numbers 45 people and operates from a number of locations: our state-of-the-art central depot, our Canterbury restaurant, our Rye Harbour landing depot and our new Borough Green retail counter,” he adds.
Have you always been in the seafood industry? How did Chapman's start?
I have been here for many years. Both owners have only ever worked in the fish industry and between them have over 70 years experience. They have done it all from fishing at sea, trading from their own shops and market stalls, been fish brokers. Now as Chapmans, they are supplying pubs, hotels and restaurants and have even become restaurateurs. Both agree that ‘it gets in the and you can never leave the fish industry’. Proof indeed after over 30 years each.
What is one of the biggest misconceptions people have about the seafood industry?
Certainly the biggest misconception is that the waters are overfished. This is certainly not the case. In fact, only 7% of waters in the world are actually fished.
What are some of the restaurants you supply to and how did you go about creating those relationships?
Our reputation for quality fresh fish caught from our own local boats has caught the eye and imagination of many local chefs. This has now grown further to the point where we now supply over 400 restaurants, pubs, hotels etc., supplying local brands such as Elite Pub Group and Shepherd Neame along with many other Michelin Star and high end restaurants.
Why is it so important for you to promote the responsible sourcing of your fish?
It is our policy to source the majority of our fresh fish locally and sustainably. With our focus on using responsible sourcing as much as we can, our clients can trust that we value fish enough to ensure it is here to stay. All our catches are traceable to port and even to the individually named boats. In instances where items are not available locally, yet have a lot of demand from customers, we will occasionally buy fish from the markets. However, in those cases, we still endeavour to use only reputable sellers. We catch our own fish from 25 of our boats off the coast of Rye.
If I was to come to your own restaurant. What must I make sure I order?
Lobster & Bubbles is very popular on our menu. Half a lobster, thermidor-style with a great fresh salad on the side together fries, all washed down with a nice glass of bubbly.
You're having friends over for dinner tonight. What's on the table? Any favourite family recipes?
For me, it has to be sea bass. I love to cook and serve it whole on a bed of Mediterranean vegetables with feta cheese and a side of sautéed potatoes. For the family, I would be looking at a nice fish pie. We supply a specific 1kg bag of fresh pie mix which is made up of 600g of white fish, 200g of smoked fish and 200g of salmon.
Which type of seafood do you think is the most under-rated and why?
I would say Coley. Very under-rated from point of catching to serving because, in the past, it was only used for animal consumption. But is a lovely, lovely alternative for fish and chips and is cheaper than cod and haddock, but unfortunately not fashionable.
What has it been like opening up your business to private customers?
Obviously times are hard with 98% of the business being pubs, hotels, and restaurants. However, we acted quickly to preserve the fish we had and quickly looked at ways to offer our products to the general public. We offer specific selection boxes as well as our normal selection of fresh, frozen, and deli fish products. We have now served over 1000 new private accounts since lockdown was put in place.
Where is the first place you're heading to once the lockdown is over?
Thankfully some of us are lucky to still be working, so life is not too bad. I will try to escape to one of the Greek islands for a week to enjoy the sun and of course some fresh fish! Keith will be heading to Spain to visit friends, where he got locked down, whilst out there previously and David is going to Scott’s in Mayfair, whom we supply, for an evening of fine dining.
Phone: +33 1732 743319
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