Celebrity chef Mitch Tonks sailed into a storm when he decided to sell fish direct from the deck of a fishing boat on Brixham harbourside.
The TV chef and owner of the Rockfish chain of restaurants was accused of ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ after alerting his thousands of social media followers when the Southampton-registered fishing boat Rockfisher arrived at the Devon port to sell its wares.
The founder of the Rockfish and Seahorse chains has been forced to close his nine restaurants, including one on Brixham harbour, as part of government measures to control coronavirus.
But he opened a fish stall so that Nick Rich, the skipper of the Rockfisher, could land his catch at Brixham and sell it directly to people who had registered an interest online.
Eager buyers snapped up the catch, but Tonks was accused of taking away business from one-man band local boat Adela BM79.
The TV chef responded: “It’s a shame – there’s room for everyone.”
The move brought some angry responses on social media, with some pointing out Brixham boat Adela was already selling fish on the quayside.
One said: “I might have missed this but I thought Adela BM79 was the only boat to have a licence to do this?”
One comment read: “How unoriginal. You have jumped on one man’s enterprise in a time of need for your own profit. You have never been interested in doing this before.”
Stefan Suddock who runs Stefan’s Fish in Middle Street said: “Been selling to the public for 11 years now, now everyone jumping on the bandwagon.”
Another said: “This is promoting Rockfish – nothing about Brixham at all.”
Tonks said: “These are very difficult times for everyone right now for health and economic reasons. We employ 270 people locally and making sure they are all ok is our priority and our greatest challenge.
“Whilst the world has paused we have the opportunity to do things differently. I always imagined people would want to buy fish on the quayside from a fisherman. It’s such a simple idea but never seemed possible until now. We were overwhelmed by the amount of people who came, all of whom wanted to know when we were doing it again. This could be a game changer for small fishing towns.
“Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a day each week where all the boats were just landing at the quayside and selling direct to the public. There’s room for everyone.
“If everyone worked together for the good of our town I’m sure we would all do ok. All the money from this is going to Nick and his crew. We are doing this to help with the economics of the boat and put people in touch with the fishermen.”