Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Iqbal Wahhab, Roast

06 December 2012
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Iqbal Wahhab, Roast

Overall ranking: 79 (NEW ENTRY)

Restaurateur ranking: 21 (NEW ENTRY)

Iqbal Wahhab - Snapshot
Iqbal Wahhab OBE is a restaurant critic and author, turned restaurateur and philanthropist. He has been hugely influential in the capital for more than two decades, either through championing Asian cooking, British food, or through providing opportunities for the young, unemployed and ex- offenders.

He opened Roast, a British restaurant, with chef Lawrence Keogh (now at the Wolseley) in 2005 and in 2010 opened a takeaway roast outlet at Westfield London. He has recently taken over the Indian street food brand Moolis and is expected to expand the brand and also open a soul food venture.

Iqbal Wahhab - Career to date
Iqbal Wahhab was born in Bangladesh and came to Britain at the age of eight months. He was educated in London and is a graduate of the London School of Economics.

In 1991, after working as a national journalist, he set up a PR agency specialising in hospitality. Three years later he launched the influential Tandoori Magazine.

Wahhab sold the magazine to launch the award-winning Cinnamon Club in 2001 - a restaurant and bar aimed at changing perceptions of Indian cuisine.

In 2003 he co-authored The Cinnamon Club Cookbook together with chef Vivek Singh and in 2005 stepped down from the Cinnamon Club to open Roast, a restaurant in Borough Market serving traditional British food using the best of local seasonal produce. He has also recently taken over Soho Indian street food brand Moolis.

Aside from his work as a restaurateur, public speaker and social commentator, Wahhab is committed to working with young people. He is a major contributor to grass root initiatives in the capital and beyond.

Wahhab received an OBE in the 2010 New Year's Honours' list for public service and services to the hospitality industry. The same year also saw him made a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts.

Among other accolades are The Drinks Business' Businessman of the Year Award and Menu Magazine's Restaurant Personality of the Year. He was voted one of the Top 10 Restaurateurs in Britain in an Independent on Sunday survey.

Iqbal Wahhab - What we think
In the past few years Wahhab has become as famous for his interest in social issues as for his work in the restaurant industry.

For example, he was recently invited to Brixton Prison for Gordon Ramsay's latest Channel 4 series, Gordon Behind Bars, resulting in Wahhab recruiting one of the former offenders, Andrew, to work in the kitchens at Roast.

Wahhab has been a financial contributor to The Prince's Trust, with all of the profits from one of the tables in Roast going to the charity. After reaching a target of £50,000, the table has switched to supporting The Mayor's Fund for London, of which he is a trustee.

He also sits on a number of other advisory boards and committees. He was recently appointed by Eric Pickles as chair of the Asian Restaurants Skills Board to promote apprenticeships in high-end Indian restaurants, and he is working with the charity Switchback to encourage ex-offenders to seek careers in catering.

However, it looks like 2013 will also see Wahhab as a major name in the business again. He has a new chef at Roast, following the departure of Lawrence Keogh (a co- founder of Roast in 2005) and has stated plans to expand Moolis and for a new restaurant, this time soul food.

Menuwatch: Roast >>

Roast appoints new head chef >>

Roast restaurant pledges job to long-term unemployed >>

Roast story >>

Wahhab given leave to seek new venture >>

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