Customer Interview – Fred

V C Jones Whitstable
‘I’m Fred Cooke. Previous owner of the most famous pie shop in the World; F. Cooke and Sons. Known locally as ‘Cooke-sys’. I feel very ‘touched and tickled’ to be asked by Matt and Dan to come down and do this, sort of an interview. I feel it’s not an interview, it’s more a tribute to the boys and the family because we’re into their 50th year and I’ve been coming to them for 35 years’.

Whitstable Restaurants
‘Whitstable has got lovely little shops that were never here before. Whitstable delicatessens. It’s wonderful. It’s completely come ‘up market’ and when you go along the seafront, the Whitstable properties there, I can remember years and years ago it used to be an old boating lake. That’s a Whitstable property now with all little maisonettes and houses on it.

Wheelers Oyster Bar
‘I remember Freddie Fitt, who opened Wheelers many years ago and he ran it with his wife and their daughter came on the scene. He, eventually, Freddie Fitt passed away and Mrs Fitt passed away, now Delia runs it and she’s turned it, not just into a shellfish bar, she’s turned it into quite a high, up-market type of Whitstable fish restaurant’.

Whitstable Oyster Festival
‘Whitstable oysters are not my scene. So I don’t come to the Whitstable oyster festival but I would like to point out; the Whitstable oyster festival is in July and I think by tradition you’re not supposed to eat oysters until there’s an ‘r’ in the month. By the sound of it they make the most of it in July. It brings money and tourists and people into the town and then they have another ‘session’ when the appropriate time comes in September, when there is an ‘r’ in the month, then they have another ‘session’ but it’s all economics, all brings money into the town which is a good thing’.

Pie and mash
‘I was the fourth generation to be born into pie and mash and quite honestly it’s always the thing to go into the business, like you boys. Your dad followed your granddad in, you boys have followed your dad in. The way we work, it was a very similar thing. My attitude to life is, don’t get too big because while you’re earning a penny in one hand you give a pound out the other. My grandfather kept it ‘neat and sweet’, two shops, one for each son and my dad finished up at the Kingsland shop and my brother and I picked up the tools and carried on running it after my grandfather passed away and unfortunately after our dad passed away but I think we made a good job of it. We were known as the most famous pie shop in the World and people literally came from all over the World to the shop’.

The publicity was wonderful
‘One very notable event that took place, they came on the phone to me and they wanted to do a fashion shoot with Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell. The publicity was wonderful. I’ve got a pal that said I used to be on the television more times than Terry Wogan!’.

People were stealing them
‘The story goes back that when my grandfather opened our shop in Kingsland in 1910 because it was such an up-market quality shop, beautiful tiling, beautiful benches with marble top tables, stainless steel knives, spoons and forks. The knives were stainless steel with rosewood handles. They were so lovely that people were stealing them. Stealing the knives and the spoons but the knives in particular. So with my grandfather’s wisdom, he had the knives ‘stamped-up’; Stolen from Cookes Pie House. That made them pinch them even quicker!’.

The best tribute in the World
‘Your fish and chips have got to be the best in the World. They truly are. Fried in dripping with your lovely crunchy batter and your chips. I can’t sing any more higher of your praises. I will come miles to come to you’.