Meet the fishmonger up for a BBC Food and Farming Award

Dan Howes, of Veasey & Sons in Forest Row, East Sussex, is a finalist in the Best Food Retailer category of the BBC Food and Farming Awards 2014.

20th March 2014
Dave and Dan

My day starts early at around 4am, but luckily my commute is brief ­– I live above the shop. I go downstairs to change into my green Veasey & Sons polo shirt and begin the day. At this moment, it feels as though there is a bit of a mountain to climb with two busy London markets and a shop to organize: Saturday is our busiest day.

I begin by preparing our slab with freshly crushed ice from our machine downstairs. This will form the blank canvas on which the fish will be elegantly displayed. I then head into our walk-in fridge and prepare large fish boxes to transport fish to the markets.

At 4.30am we receive our first delivery of the day; mussels, clams and oysters which come from our shellfish supplier. We also get fresh fish from our Scottish and Cornish senders. I then divide this between the markets and the shop.

After our first delivery I can start on creating the daily slab for the shop. I arrange the fish and shellfish as artistically as possible on the large iced table; this is the part of the day when we can really show off our selection. With their bright eyes, red gills and glistening scales, fish this fresh really sell themselves.

At 5.30am I call Chris Veasey, fisherman and owner of the shop. We discuss what he will bring up from the local Eastbourne day boat catch – I leave space on the slab for these locally caught offerings.

Time for a quick coffee before I head back into the fridge to attend to the 10 boxes I lined up earlier. I organise the fillets, flat fish, round fish, shellfish, cooked and smoked fish equally between the boxes. I can then load the van with all the equipment needed for a busy market day, followed by the neatly packed fish and boxes laden with more freshly crushed ice.

At 6.30am Chris and John (Chris’s Father) arrive with the fresh haul, which we divide between the markets and shop. Chris and I load the second van to the brim and it’s time for breakfast.

At 7.00am, Dave (fishmonger) arrives just in time for breakfast, which is always a hearty breakfast roll baked fresh and delivered by our local Cyrnel Bakery without fail. After breakfast we are on our way and Dave is left to finish setting up the shop for a busy day.

Chris and John are off to Brockley Market in Lewisham, also a BBC Food & Farming Finalist, and I am off to a smaller market called Crystal Palace Food Market. It is a fantastically busy market with a community feel.

The drive takes around an hour from the shop and I arrive in Crystal Palace and meet with Paul, my market helper. We unload the van and start assembling our stainless tables for the stall. Just like this morning, we fill the table with ice and arrange our wide selection of fish as decoratively as possible.

The market runs from 10am - 3pm and is always busy. We have built up quite a following here and often sell out. We see a diverse range of people coming through the market and nobody leaves empty handed – there is just so much on offer!

At 4pm, after a quick clear down of the stall, we load up the van and I'm on my way. By 5.30pm I am back at the shop, and all that is left to do is unload, clear the van and see how well we have done for the day.

To read blogs from the other finalists in this category, click here

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