A day in the life of a fish and chip shop

IT'S 2pm on a Thursday afternoon and Fair Dinkum Fish and Chip shop owner Maxine Fairfall is preparing for the evening rush. 

"We have to peel, wash and slice potatoes... Alex has to prepare the batter," Maxine said. 

The family, of three generations, has two hours to get the Doveton Street North store ready for dinner. 

Grandmother Maxine is at the counter, her daughter Tash is on fryer and her daughter Alex in making the shop's secret batter. 

"I didn't know anything about how to run a fish and chip shop when I started," Maxine said. 

The grandmother fell into the role after her son Michael and daughter Belinda decided to make a tree change from sweltering Perth to the milder Ballarat in 2006. 

The family, who worked in management at Coles Supermarkets, moved to Ballarat with the prospects of continuing their roles in the company. But unfortunately for the Fairfall family, the opportunity never eventuated.

"Michael bought the fish and chip shop, but the day he signed, he got offered a job at Big W," Maxine said. 

Maxine was left to hold the fort, and she's managed quite successfully.

Maxine, Tash and Alex Fairall. PICTURE: CRAIG HOLLOWAY

Online reviewers have dubbed Fair Dinkum one of the best fish and chip stores in Ballarat.

Urban Spoon reviewers rave about "fantastic service and great staff" and those potato cakes "that are obviously homemade".

But Maxine won't budge on what makes Fair Dinkum's potato cakes so popular. 

"Oh I can't tell you that," she said.

"They aren't pre-cooked. We batter them just before they go into the fryer." 

Maxine said the previous owner created the recipe to cater for her husband's stomach problems.

Before the business changed hands, Maxine spent a day in the kitchen with one of the previous owners to learn the ins and outs of manning a take away store. 

"I didn't know anything about how to run a fish and chip shop when I started"

"I went along with the previous owner, this little French lady, and started writing everything down in a big book," she said. 

Back then Fair Dinkum Fish and Chips used to cut their own fish, but Maxine said that was a dying tradition in Ballarat takeaway shops.

"We have a supplier for our potatoes though, and they are cut fresh every day," she said. 

Another change Maxine made was to the menu, transforming the simple one-board menu into something that expands over two walls. 

"I must warn you, it takes a while to get through," Maxine said. 

"No one family member orders the same thing, everyone is different.

"Someone always wants the burger, and there's someone who doesn't like fish," she said.

The schedule for cleaning the fryers. PICTURE: CRAIG HOLLOWAY

Maxine said she extended the menu to cater for everyone's tastes, including vegetarians. 

"We have a huge number of seniors that come here," she said. 

Tash said she sees a lot of regulars and can remember their orders off by heart. 

"Mr Dean is just amazing. He's about 90-years-old and would never miss out on fish and chips," she said. 

"He'd ride his bike down in the heat or the rain to get his fish and chips." 

When asked about the future of the business next, Maxine said she was taking it one order at a time. 

"(Summer) is our busiest time of year, we have to get through this first," she said. 

See behind the scenes at one of Ballarat's favourite fish and chip shops. PICTURE: CRAIG HOLLOWAY

See behind the scenes at one of Ballarat's favourite fish and chip shops. PICTURE: CRAIG HOLLOWAY


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