CLAIRE Benson has proven she’s a chip off the old block – after her shop was named Best Chippy in South Yorkshire!
Pete’s Chippy in Grenoside won The Star’s competition, following dozens of nominations, hundreds of votes and an expert ‘taste test’ of the final six.
“I’m in shock, I was so excited when I heard the news I nearly cried,” said owner Claire, who has run the Sheffield shop since her parents retired seven years ago.
“The first thing I did was call my mum and dad and scream!”
And victory is truly sweet for the businesswoman who didn’t serve her first chip until she was in her 30s.
Claire was busy climbing the corporate ladder as a legal secretary at Irwin Mitchell when her parents called to tell her they were planning to sell the chip shop they’d owned for 35 years.
“Something came over me, I can’t describe it, but I suddenly just couldn’t imagine the place going out of our family,” said Claire, aged 37.
“I told them I wanted to buy it and I quit my job at the firm – my co-workers thought I was absolutely barmy!”
Claire’s parents Pete and Barbara also initially tried to discourage her.
“They told me I had a fantastic job, but I knew the shop was more important,” she explained.
And her parents’ reservation is understandable as Claire admits she never did so much as a Saturday shift in the shop when she was growing up.
“I used to like to sit in the window and chat with the customers,” she laughs.
“That’s my favourite part of the job now – the banter and the people. Working a Friday night there is like going on a night out in the village, chatting with all my friends, and getting paid for it.”
Judge Wayne Rodgers, head chef of The Inn at Troway, visited all six finalists – Pete’s, Castle Chippy in the market, Tony’s at Mosborough, Rob’s at Greenhill, Arundel Road Fisheries at Chapeltown and Cottage Fish Bar at Ecclesfield.
Wayne told The Star that the standard was really impressive but, in the end, Pete’s Chippy came out the clear winner.
“Pete’s was definitely my favourite,” he said.
“Fish, chips, peas – it was all great. They gave me the whole package and I couldn’t fault any part of it.
“I think Claire’s attitude and commitment to her community is admirable. Fish and chip shops are such a British institution but there’s no doubt they’ve lost a bit of their spark in recent years. People like Claire and the other finalists in this competition are working hard to bring them back to what they once were.
“The people of Sheffield certainly know what they’re talking about – all six places were spot on.”
So has Claire ever regretted leaving behind the fascinating world of the law to serve up chips?
“Not for a second, I absolutely love it. For a long time, being here felt like I was on holiday from my real job...I still feel that way most of the time.
“Winning The Star’s competition is such an honour and really quite overwhelming, I can’t wait to thank everyone in person who took the time to vote for me.
“It’ll be chips all round!”