Taste the World / Parker’s Proper Fish & Chips
Photos by kc kratt
1216 South Park Avenue, Buffalo; 823-3772 or parkersbritishinstitution.com
Owners: Damien and Vicky Parker
In business since: 2008
Damian Parker has a showman’s soul, an entrepreneur’s spirit, and an obsessive’s attention to quality and service. From early aspirations to bring the best and most authentic British products to customers in North America, he and his wife, Vicky, have grown their online business, Parker’s Great British Institution, into a world-renowned, award-winning purveyor of many, many things British.
Their brick-and-mortar chip shop, says Parker, is increasingly popular with British ex-pats, Canadians, and tourists who often learn about the spot when it’s featured on the Food Channel. Their overall goal is to build a “luxury lifestyle brand” that includes all sorts of products and categories, as well as a destination in Buffalo that recreates a British High Street experience and offers immersive shopping, entertainment, and educational opportunities for tourists and locals alike.
Buffa-proud of their own famous fish fry, Buffalonians have yet to fully embrace the UK-style fish and chips, says Parker. But there’s always time. And he’ll keep frying.
Why did you want to do this type of food?
We are passionate about it, proud of our West Yorkshire heritage. When we first came to the States, we’d hear people say, “Oh, English food is bland.” Even if they’d never tasted it! We are championing the right way of doing it, giving the “proper” experience. Once they try it, they get hooked.
What is your mission here?
We want to educate and showcase the quality of the food and the culture. We are doing this for lot of different reasons and on many levels. Buffalo has the second highest number of people of Irish heritage in the States, so we can offer that connection. We’re also championing tourism for Buffalo. Most of our customer base comes from out of state—they’re “road-tripping” and Parker’s is a destination for them. We are proud that we can help bring fresh money to the region.
How do you maintain the authenticity of the fish and chips?
The whole process uses 100 percent UK products—from our frying range to the potato chippers and peelers, all the equipment is imported from the UK. We only use Icelandic cod, fished by the same vessel that supplies the best chip shops in the UK. We use a recipe that’s over 150 years old. The batter is light and elegant. There’s a secret to how we process the potatoes that makes them less starchy and results in a lighter chip.
How do British fish and chips differ from a fish fry?
Fish and chips are the grandfather of the fish fry. Fish and chips are seasoned with only salt and vinegar. The three traditional sides found in every chip shop from England to Ireland, Scotland, and Wales are mushy peas, curry sauce, and gravy. There are seasonal tweaks, like on Robert Burns Night, in Scotland, haggis is battered and fried.
Jana Eisenberg writes regularly for Spree.