The UK’s leading curry restaurateurs once again descended on the capital to attend jewel in the crown of the UK curry industry award sector at the 14th annual British Curry Awards in association with Just Eat on Monday 26th November at Battersea Evolution. The pioneering and foremost celebration of the nation’s favourite cuisine once again paid homage to the industry’s finest establishments, with Bradford’s very own Mumtaz coming out on top in its region.
Hosted by comedian and impersonator Jon Clegg, British Curry Awards, or the ‘Curry Oscars’ as fondly coined by David Cameron, welcomed a guest list of personalities from the worlds of politics, sport, television, showbiz and entertainment, as well as leading celebrity chefs, restaurant owners and their staff from across the country. In attendance were: comedian, actor, author and activist Russell Brand; MP’s Sir Vince Cable, Chris Grayling, Brandon Lewis and Baroness Verma; footballer David Seaman MBE and Frankie Poultney; comedian Hardeep Kohli; The Apprentice contestants Jasmine Kundra, Daniel Elahi and Kurran Pooni; TV personalities Kirsten O’Brien, Nina Myskow and Pat Sharp; singer Patti Boulaye; models India Harl and Ramzan Miah; and DJ Neev Spencer among others.
As the foremost and pioneering celebration of the UK curry industry’s achievements, British Curry Awards has become a national institution in its own right and a key fixture on the hospitality industry’s calendar. A rigorous selection process to honour the nation’s top curry houses was led by the UK public, with the dedicated frequenters of curry houses on the streets of Britain invited to nominate their favourite Asian restaurants and takeaways. The process of public nominations created an authentic list of the nation’s most cherished Asian eateries, based on the opinions of local residents, with award winners announced on the night from category shortlists across each UK region.
British Curry Award-winners 2018:
- Best Spice Restaurant in Scotland: Light of Bengal, Aberdeen
- Best Spice Restaurant in North East: Mumtaz, Bradford
- Best Spice Restaurant in North West: Indique, Manchester
- Best Spice Restaurant in Midlands: Pushkar, Birmingham
- Best Spice Restaurant in Wales: Rasoi Waterfront, Swansea
- Best Spice Restaurant in South East: Maliks Restaurant Cookham, Maidenhead
- Best Spice Restaurant in South West: Koloshi Indian Restaurant, Charlton Kings, Cheltenham
- Best Spice Restaurant in Central London & City: Baluchi, Tooley Street, SE1
- Best Delivery Restaurant/Takeaway: Chilli Tuk Tuk, North Finchley, London N12
- Best Casual Dining: Dabbawal High Bridge, Newcastle
- Newcomer of the Year: Dishoom, Edinburgh
- Special Recognition Award: Chef Rezual Karim from Stockholm
As well as recognising industry talent and quality, the British Curry Awards highlighted the continued challenges faced by the curry business. The Asian catering industry is valued at approximately £5bn. Even so, over the years the industry has witnessed a steep downturn. This decline is largely attributed to the shortage of skilled workers in the hospitality sector, from a lack of talented chefs all the way through to front of house staff. This is due to the UK’s stringent immigration policy relating to skilled workers from outside the EU, coupled with a palpable sense of disinterest among younger people or job seekers with regard to the hospitality sector.
The UK curry industry has been in crisis for years, with an average of one restaurant now closing down per day and a shortfall of approximately 30,000 skilled workers required to fill the immediate staffing gap. The situation has now made worse by the unknown implications that Brexit will have on access to skilled workers from outside the EU. One impact of Brexit has already been witnessed by way of rising costs of food produce and supplies due to the weakening pound.
The industry is suffering the impact of a Brexit betrayal by pro Leave politicians, who promised restaurants higher inflows from South Asia with easier visa rules, allowing lower salary-thresholds to hire overseas staff and regularising undocumented workers. Instead, the immigration of skilled workers from outside the EU has become tighter, business has suffered and the workers from eastern Europe that the industry has come to rely on are leaving. Furthermore, current rules mandate paying salaries of £35,000 to offer a curry chef’s job to a skilled worker from South Asia, an amount out of reach for most of smaller restaurants, compared to a royal chef position that offers a salary of just over £21,000.
British Curry Awards Founder, Enam Ali MBE, is the UK’s leading spokesperson for the curry industry and has been promoting it globally for the past 35 years. He has also been lobbying the UK government to implement a major review as current legislation continues to impact the industry, granting access to the skilled workers the industry is currently lacking via short term, working visas. At the same time looking at a domestic solution rather than depending on foreign chefs, Enam has formed the Le Raj Academy in partnership with North East Surrey College of Technology (NESCOT) in Epsom. This venture has been training chefs and front of house staff to become the stars of the future.
Enam Ali MBE says: “Staff shortages mean many of us are struggling to meet customer expectations, and it is almost impossible to expand as we would like to. I hope the government will rectify this situation by making Britain an example of fairness through equality. This may sound very pro-immigration but, in fact, I believe that the control of immigration for any country is very important. At least I am privileged that the present government seems willing to help us find a pragmatic solution to the current industry crisis At the same time we, as an industry, are taking all necessary measures domestically, through establishing initiatives that are proactively engaging younger generations with the industry.”
Speaking at the event, Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling MP, said, “I’ve been to these awards over all the years since it first started and it gives me huge pride to see it in such a fantastic state tonight. The idea that is has gone on to become this fantastic event on a huge scale, recognised nationally. It’s a fantastic effort that brings together the industry from across the country. Over the years, there have been some really well deserved winners. Some great figures from the curry industry have been recognised by this award ceremony, paying tribute to the curry heroes who built restaurants from scratch as they arrived in this country; created a cuisine; created a culture on the high street; and played such an important role, not just in the fabric of the country but also the also by the amount of charitable support that this community puts not just into our community here in the UK but into the actual communities from which these families originated from. This is a fantastic industry; it does superb work; it gives so many people such pleasure, every night of every week of every year across the whole of the UK. You’re all restaurants that have put your own communities on the map, your restaurants which attract and give pleasure to people from all around your areas every week. We are entirely proud of you.”
Recognising the socio-economic impact of the curry industry on life in Britain, in former attendance at British Curry Awards, Prime Minister, Theresa May herself said: “The British curry industry really is one of Britain’s greatest success stories. From that first curry house two hundred years ago has sprung a multi billion pound industry, which is modern, successful and thriving. Through hard work and innovation, you’ve built a vibrant industry, which generates wealth, promotes growth and employs tens of thousands of people.”