How many chips is a serve of “minimum chips”? Every Australian fish’n’chip shop has its own idea. From three-scoop behemoths to cup-sized disappointments – some loaded with chicken salt, some severely lacking. Chips wrapped up in butcher’s paper or newspaper, or stuffed in a paper bag: the smallest serve you can purchase comes in many shapes and sizes.
To define and catalogue Melbourne’s chip ecology, chip enthusiast Brandon Gatgens started minimumchipsmelbourne, an Instagram account that poses two questions: How much should you pay for minimum chips? And how many people should a serve feed? Every person Gatgens asked had a different answer, so he set out to define the undefinable.
“I grew up on the beach, and fish’n’chips is part of growing up on the coast,” he says. “I thought, ‘I’m going to try to eat as many chips as I can without sacrificing my health or my day job’.” Gatgens now eats fish’n’chips once a week with his wife Claire. “My wife thinks it’s incredibly dumb but she’s very supportive.”
The account catalogues condiment-free pictures of minimum-chip orders from shops around the city, listing the shop name, price and weight of each serve alongside a photo of the chips and a photo of the shop exterior. Gatgens’s current pick for best value is posted as the “Clubhouse Leader” in the account’s bio. Currently that’s Saint Charles Street Fish and Chippery in Seddon, which serves up 609 grams of crisp potato goodness for $4.
Gatgens says he isn’t reviewing the chips or trying to set a universal serving standard. “Fish’n’chip shops are an institution. They shouldn’t go anywhere, and they shouldn’t change,” he says. But he does have his own personal standards for what constitutes a decent serve.
“Minimum chips needs to feed two people, with one person feeling slightly uncomfortable and eating too many chips,” he says. “And chip shop owners are usually very passionate about the kind of oil they use. Some of them are very passionate about being cash only, which I really like. It’s very rare these days.”
The White Pages lists 56 fish’n’chip shops in greater Melbourne, and having documented 10 so far, Gatgens reckons he could potentially cover them all within a year or so. “I’m serious about chips,” he says. “Eventually I’d like to take it interstate. I’d like to become the number one minimum-chips reference point in Australia.”
He’s got some ideas for the rest of the fish’n’chip shop menu, too.
“The next step might be the extra potato cake,” he says. “Everyone’s answer of how many potato cakes you need to order before you get a free one is different, and every fish’n’chip shop treats it differently.”