Specialist status savoured as long-dormant smokehouse is back in business
TRADITIONALLY SMOKED: Lee Williams, left, with smoke house manager, Stephen Mathews, and some of the freshly smoked haddock. Top right, Kenny Williams, to whom the investment is dedicated.
By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 10 Oct 2017
A REDISCOVERED Grimsby smokehouse has secured PGI status, six months after firing up the pits for the first time in more than 30 years.
The King’s Dish, from B&L Filleting owner Lee Williams, has brought virtually 100 years of history back to life on Riby Street.
And fittingly, in Seafood Week, he has had the hard-fought European Union recognition bestowed by North East Lincolnshire Council, joining a select band of ambassadors of the traditional method.
Working tirelessly with father Kenny to build the contract filleting business up from rented workspace to three factories, the premises where the smokehouses have been rekindled was part of that expansion, only they’d long ago been bricked up to provide a purely processing environment.
“We bought the building three years ago to expand the filleting business, and it was my Dad’s idea to then open up the smokehouses,” Mr Williams said. “His desire was a big part of it, a real influence on me, to get it back to its former glory. It is dedicated now to my Dad, he is behind the motivation and drive to get this place.”
He passed away just weeks before the first haddock was smoked, with B&L having taken on neighbouring premises to allow for the venture.
Trainee fish smoker, Paul Leshone, packs the freshly prepared smoked haddock into boxes ready for delivery. Picture: Rick Byrne
The extensive project was completed alongside the town’s Bacon Engineering, with the requirements of the wider industry at the forefront of his mind when it comes to standards and certifications.
“The ambition is to attract a major retailer,” Mr Williams said. “We have the PGI now, which gives the product great protection, and it is something I am really passionate about. We need to raise people’s awareness that traditional tastes better, and is a really healthy dish.
“We have the capacity to produce two-and-a-half tonnes of smoked fish a day.
“We really didn’t realise the potential until we opened it up. We think we could not just serve England, but we could export internationally as well.”
Mr Williams now has plans to convert the office at the front of the building into a shop to provide a service direct to the town.
Windows look straight onto the long wall of stainless steel doors separating the process floor from the 50ft towers, where sawdust and North Sea air mingle to help create the town’s culinary magic.
“We have invested heavily, worked really hard, and this is the next step,” Mr Williams said. “I think there is a market for it within the town.”
Stephen Mathews is the smokehouse manager, having been brought in a year ago by Lee as the project progressed. He first smoked fish 35 years ago, when he was just 16.
“The facilities are superb, the best I have ever been in,” he enthused. “There is great potential to grow. We need to build on the recognition that traditional is the best form of smoking, and ideally, get one of the big boys to take our supply.”