In 2014 Ramus Seafoods, a North Yorkshire fishmonger specialising in providing quality seafood for fine dining, celebrated its 40th anniversary. Managing director, Jonathan Batchelor tells Seafish a little more about the work involved in creating a daily "temple to piscine pleasure”.
Ramus Seafoods was founded in 1973 by Chris and Liz Ramus. They started bringing shellfish from the east coast to satisfy the growing restaurant scene in Harrogate and North Yorkshire. Over the years the business has grown and developed, supplying even more restaurants and shops alongside the general public. TV stars such as Michelin chef Angela Hartnett and the late Keith Floyd have bought seafood from the business and celebrity chefs such as Nathan Outlaw, Rick Stein and Sophie Grigson have provided recipes.
In 1999, Jonathan and his business partner Tony Rushton, who were both working for Ramus, bought the business. They continued to develop the catering business and created the award-winning Seafood Emporiums in Harrogate and Ilkley. Described by Country Living Magazine as a "temple to piscine pleasure", the Emporiums have state of the art fish display counters to provide shoppers with a magnificent shopping environment.
In 2014 Ramus celebrated its 40 years with the publication of a Ramus cookbook: FORTY. Gathered from acclaimed chefs, food writers, producers and restaurants, the recipes demonstrate how easy fish is to cook and prepare at home, with a contribution from each book going to support the Fishermen’s Mission Charity.
A Working Week
Explaining his role in the business Jonathan says: “As MD of Ramus Seafoods my role is to oversee the general health and direction of the business. I also still spend plenty of time working on the filleting bench and still load the vans in a morning, as well as helping out in our shops at holiday times. I can be found behind the counter of our shop in Ilkley on many a Saturday.”
“I also do lots of cooking and craft demonstrations to help people get over their innate fear of fish. I visit food shows, ladies’ groups and local schools, having recently demonstrated at Malton Food Lover’s Festival, Malton Seafood & Game Fair and the Living North Christmas Fair. I get great satisfaction from helping to promote seafood to a wider audience in a fun relaxed way.”
On an average day business starts at 5am when Tony will take a note of the orders that have come in overnight – there can be anything between 10 and 50 orders. The seafood arrives from fish markets all over the UK at around 6am. “Much of what comes in that day will go straight out to our customers,” says Jonathan.
“This is one of the best times, because as you open the boxes you are never sure what you will find. There is nothing better than opening a box and finding beautiful fresh quality fish just waiting to be sent to a restaurant kitchen or to go on our fish counter. Knowing you are selling a quality product is a great reward for all the hard work.”
Checks for quality take place throughout the process, from the moment the fish arrives, to the moment it is sent to the customer. By 8am the trade orders are all on their way.
Meanwhile the Emporium retail team start their day at 6.30am. As well as displaying and prepping the fish, they make seafood platters, cook lobsters and salmon, and prepare a range of fresh ready-made seafood meals, including salmon en croute, fishcakes, fish pâtés & seafood kebabs. “It is fair to say the first two hours of the days are the busiest and the most fun with lots going on and lots of activity and banter,” says Jonathan.
Where does our fish come from? Speaking about the wide variety of seafood available at Ramus Seafoods, Jonathan adds: “We regularly stock 30 to 40 species of fish depending on seasonality and weather conditions. We source responsibly from merchants up and down the country as well as the best importers of exotic species and the best in farmed fish. In order to develop our Wild Catch range of high quality seasonal fish, we’ve developed a great partnership with a small team of day boat fishermen down in the South West. We can have delicious fresh fish to our Yorkshire customers within 24 hours of being landed.”
Seasonality plays a big part in what seafood is and isn’t available: if fishermen can’t get out in bad weather conditions, then they won’t be able to deliver fish to businesses like Ramus. However Jonathan finds this is something he often has to explain to customers: “Unfortunately some customers are so used to being able to buy product all year that they sometimes have difficulty understanding the issues surrounding a truly seasonal product.”
Educating customers so they can better understand how the best seafood is sourced, and make informed buying choices is a role which Jonathan takes very seriously. “We have a responsibility to help protect fish for the future of all and working directly with the fishermen helps ensure sustainability of the species. We also work with organisations such as the National Lobster Hatchery in Padstow and are partners in their Buy One Set One Free scheme which releases juvenile lobsters back into the wild.
Jonathan recognizes the role that both he and his customers can play in protecting fish stocks for the future, and supports this by ensuring his customers understand the truth about the issue. For more information about Ramus Seafoods visit www.ramus.co.uk.