The unsung heroes behind Britain’s favourite cuisine were honoured once again at the 13th Annual British Curry Awards on Monday 27th November 2017 at Battersea Evolution, London. The coveted award ceremony paid homage to their achievements as the curry industry faces serious challenge.
Often referred to as the curry industry’s ‘Oscars’, British Curry Awards was attended by luminaries from the worlds of politics, sport, arts and entertainment, as well as leading celebrity chefs, restaurant owners and their staff from across the country. In attendance were Sir Vince Cable MP, Chris Grayling MP, Khalid Mahmood MP, David Seaman MBE, Frankie Seaman, Jimmy White, Jo Wood, Lizzie Cundy, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Riz Lateef, Rageh Omaar, Nina Myskow, Patti Boulaye and Stephen Komlosy among others.
Winners at British Curry Awards 2017 were:
Best Spice Restaurant in Scotland: Sanam Tandoori, Falkirik
Best Spice Restaurant in North West: Viceroy Carlisle
Best Spice Restaurant in North East: Mumbai Lounge, York
Best Spice Restaurant in Wales: Rasoi Indian Kitchen, Swansea
Best Spice Restaurant in Midlands: Asha’s Indian Bar & Kitchen, Birmingham
Best Spice Restaurant in South West: Koloshi, Cheltenham
Best Spice Restaurant in South East: Malik’s Cookham
Best Spice Restaurant in London Outer & Suburbs: Shampan Bromley
Best Spice Restaurant in Central London & City: Cinnamon Club, Westminster
Best Casual Dining: Dabbawal Jesmond
Best Newcomer: Dishoom, Kings Cross
Best Takeaway: Chilli Pickle, Brighton
As well as recognising industry talent and quality, the British Curry Awardshighlighted the growing challenges faced by the curry business. It is estimated that 90 per cent of UK curry restaurants are currently affected by a crippling shortage of chefs, which is causing an average of four curry restaurant closures each week.
In the last 18 months, the number of licensed curry restaurants has declined by 13 per cent, with over 1,000 restaurants closing their doors on the UK’s high streets for good. The primary contributing factor to the crisis is the government’s immigration policy in relation to skilled workers from outside the EU. Visa applications are often refused and the staff shortages are the main reason why curry restaurants are closing.
The UK curry industry has also been the victim of a Brexit Betrayal since the Referendum vote took place. Former International Development Secretary, Priti Patel, galvanised the industry to vote Leave by saying a Brexit vote would allow the curry industry to relax non-EU immigration rules and “save” British curry houses. She argued that “un-controlled” immigration from the EU meant the UK could not bring in the “talents and the skills” from other parts of the world to support the economy. The industry was hoping that an Australian “points-style” immigration system would allow them to hire more staff from countries such as India and Bangladesh. However, one of Theresa May’s first announcements after becoming Prime Minister was to rule out such a system.
Speaking at British Curry Awards, Liberal Democrats Leader Sir Vince Cable said, “If there was ever any doubt beforehand, the shortage of curry chefs is now a crisis. The government received excellent suggestions on how to solve this problem over 18 months ago, but this well-researched 75-page document has sadly gone ignored. Theresa May must revisit these proposals, which include a tightly controlled, one-year work visa, so that our curry restaurants can bring expert chefs to the UK and to train the next generation of curry cooks. We need more urgent measures, including what has been dubbed a ‘vindaloo visa’, to save the nation’s favourite cuisine.”
British Curry Awards founder, restaurateur and editor of trade publication, Spice Business, Enam Ali MBE, said at the event, “Theresa May commended our industry as a shining example of hard work. Now, a curry restaurant closes every week because of the new rules stopping experienced curry chefs from India or Bangladesh from coming over. This new legislation has been strangling our industry. How many British people want to work in a curry restaurant as a chef or a waiter? Evidence shows it’s next to none. We remain hopeful that our proposal provides a starting point for an answer to this crisis.”
A message from Prime Minister, Theresa May conveyed, “Curry houses make a significant contribution to both the national economy and local communities across the country. It is a great testament to the industry that the vast majority of restaurants each produce food with their own unique style. With staff working day and night to provide the best food, it is no surprise that curry houses are among the most popular places to eat out in the UK. All of those recognised this evening truly encompass the best of British.”
Immigration Minister, Brandon Lewis, acknowledged the problems facing the UK curry industry and indicated he will work closer with the industry to achieve solutions to the current problems.