Tory party leader David Cameron praised Britain's £3.5b curry restaurant industry for its promotion of community cohesion at the British Curry Awards, now into its fifth year.
Speaking at the event on 3 November at London's Battersea Evolution venue, the politician said: "The British curry industry is a great success story. It's shown how people from all backgrounds, with different creeds and cultures, can come together as one."
Around 3,000 restaurants were nominated for the awards by 43,000 public nominations. An initial judging process then produced a list of 100 finalists. This year's winners included London's Bombay Brasserie restaurant, which was voted Best Indian Restaurant in the awards back in 2005.
The Best Newcomer award went to Vivek Singh's Cinnamon Kitchen & Anise in east London, just one day after Singh's Cinnamon Club was named the UK's best ethnic restaurant in the inaugural World Food Awards.
On the night, British Curry Awards founder and organiser Enam Ali appealed for help from politicians to solve a skills shortage in the curry restaurant industry.
"We recognise that the long-term solution to our staffing problems is to attract and groom our home-grown chefs," he said. "The improved profile that these awards have given to our industry is already showing some results, with more young people among the award winners," he said.
"But this is a slow process and, in the short and medium term, we will still need to turn back to the sub-continent to find many of the skilled people we need to help keep our industry moving forward and meet diners' increasing demands for regional cooking."
Ali said that the points-based immigration system, introduced earlier this year, had done nothing to help their cause.
"We were told this would provide us with a sensible solution to our problems. Sadly it has turned out to be anything but," he said.
"Restaurateurs are still facing problems obtaining sponsors' certificates from the Home Office, which is always a lengthy process, and now we have the requirement for chefs to pass an English test in order to obtain a UK visa. Chefs are in great demand here, but only for their cooking skills. They don't need to know English to cook a damned good curry!
The full list of winners of the British Curry Awards 2009:
- Scotland / Northern Ireland: Cinnamon, Aberdeen
- North East: Aagrah, Garforth, Leeds
- North West: Indian Ocean, Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire
- Midlands: Lasan, Birmingham
- Wales: Bokhara Brasserie, Bridgend
- South East: Jaipur, Milton Keynes
- South West: Rajpoot, Bath
- London Central & City: Bombay Brasserie, London SW7
- London Suburbs: Brilliant Restaurant, Southall
- Best Casual Dining: Tayyabs, London
- Newcomer of the Year: Cinnamon Kitchen & Anise, London
By Rosie Birkett
E-mail your comments to Caterer News here.
If you have something to say on this story or anything else join the debate at Table Talk - Caterer's new networking forum. Go to www.caterersearch.com/tabletalk
Looking for a new job? Find your next restaurant job here with Caterersearch.com jobs