The Little Fish Market in Hove

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Life is certainly busy for Chef and Entrepreneur, Duncan Ray. Duncan, who has worked with Heston Blumenthal and has trained in some of Europe’s very best restaurants, was always driven by one goal – to set up his own business...

The Little Fish Market in Hove is the result. Converted from fishmonger to high end eatery, the restaurant reflects Duncan’s passion for fresh, high quality, sustainable food, with menus shaped daily by the latest catch from the fishmonger.

The Little Fish Market Salmon dish on plate

The business is unique in that Duncan is the sole chef, with just himself and his one front of house staff member, providing an intimate dining experience tucked away from the busy streets of nearby Brighton.

We asked Duncan to fill us in on the advice he’s picked up along the way…

Who/what inspired you to set up The Little Fish Market?

I think it’s every chef’s dream to have their own place.  Most chefs are creative people and when you’re working for someone else it can restrict you in your creativity.  For me, that produces a bit of frustration, so doing it on your own is the only way to have total freedom.

What is your unique selling point? What makes your brand stand out in such a competitive market?

I don’t work alongside a crew of staff that I’ve trained, it’s just me and one member of front-of-house staff.  It allows me to ensure everything is executed in the way I want it.

How do you react to the changing marketplace?

I try not to react.  I think that one of the biggest failures for restaurants is changing direction all the time.  By doing this, it can give the impression that you don’t believe in what you’re doing and you run the risk of losing trust from your customers.

Trends come and go, and in my opinion, basing a business on a current trend is like putting a life expectancy on it from the outset.

My advice would be to always stay true to what you do.

What is the biggest business mistake you’ve made and what key learning did you take from it to make your business better?

Spending money before knowing what the business actually needs.  I’ve learned that what really matters is the experience for the customer. Behind the scenes in my kitchen, I have a domestic fryer and two hobs – it amazes people that I can cook my dishes without an advanced set-up expected from a professional kitchen.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to other chefs/entrepreneurs looking to succeed in the industry?

To delegate what you’re not good at. You can waste a lot of time and money by thinking you can do everything yourself. Chefs are taught to overcome problems and we live our lives in such a high pressured state, meaning that we sometimes bite off more than we can chew.  Make sure you have the right people around you to help, support and save you money. This enables you to free-up time so you can do what you do best.

What are your future food trend predictions?

I think there’s going to be a lot more simplicity in the restaurant world.  People are moving away from traditional and formal approaches to cooking. There’s a more relaxed style, which will make it more accessible and attract more people.

What’s your signature dish?

Monkfish, pork belly, carrot and star anise puree with squid and pine nuts

When you get the chance, where do you enjoy eating out?

Japanese restaurants.

What would be your dream meal? (starter, main and dessert)

Anything Michel Bras wanted to cook me

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party? 

  • Jay Rayner
  • Auguste Escoffier, the grandfather of all food
  • My old boss, Heston Blumenthal

What’s the one piece of kitchen equipment you couldn’t live without?

A knife.