Feature – Street Food Spotlight – Olly’s Fish Shack
This week we chatted to top bloke Olly Dawson from Olly’s Fish Shack.
1. How did the idea for Olly’s Fish Shack come about?
When I was a kid I was obsessed with all things beach and surf. I’ve done a fair bit of surf travel and I’ll always seek out good-quality fresh fish and shellfish straight off the boat or being cooked in beach shacks. As a chef I’ve been a sustainable fish activist for many years and wanted to put something out there that’s fun, that supports responsible fishing methods and that makes really good-quality seafood accessible to the masses. I suppose Olly’s Fish Shack is this dream coming true – my bit of paradise in Brighton!
2. What are your main influences?
There are loads. Nino, my first chef in 1991, was a self-trained chef from rural southern Italy. Some of the stuff he cooked for his lunch was incredibly simple and so delicious.
Fergus Henderson from St John restaurant – he was inspirational, a real maverick at the time. When I started at St John, I’d just come from a fine-dining restaurant. I was on cold starters, arranging this spring vegetable salad on the plate trying to get some height on it and fiddling about to make it all pretty. Fergus came up alongside me and said “No! Just let the dressed salad fall out of the bowl, tidy up any bits hanging off the plate and send it.” I thought – yep that’s the way, and you’ve just made my job loads easier!
More recently, Mission Street Food is an inspirational story, and Roy Choi from Kogi Truck. The other main influence for me has been working in the community sector over the last 12 years, running my cookery courses and giving cookery demos. I’ve met loads of people from lots of different countries and backgrounds. Cooks, fishermen, farmers, growers and artisans – I’ve picked up lots of good ideas and recipes along the way.
3. What’s your signature street food dish?
It’s got to be the ‘Cilantro Dave’ Fish Sub – a super-fresh local tempura fish fillet in a gourmet 8-inch sub, with freshly ground harissa and a coriander and lime aioli. It’s got an almost cult-like following and Dave has become a sort of mythological character. It’s funny when I’m working down the queue at the shack checking orders going “Dave? Dave? Dave? Dave? Dave?” The ladies don’t mind – they think it’s fun!
4. Sum up your street food in three words
OFF THE HOOK!
5. Where can we find you?
At Street Diner: Queens Road every Friday and every other Wednesday at Hove Town Hall, both 11am-3pm. I’m also at events and festivals throughout the year and we can be booked for private functions.