Where have all the curry kings gone?


WE may love to eat them, but it seems the supply of curry chefs simply cannot keep up with the our demand.

Indian restaurants are suffering from a shortage of specialist chefs, mainly because young people aren’t interested in learning the art.

Around 99 percent of staff being taken on by Indian restaurants are untrained, so it is left to restaurateurs to bring them up to the required standards.

Mohammed Iqbal Shishir, a chef at Bhaji’s in Greenmeadow, a finalist in this year’s Curry Chef of the Year competition, said: “I am aware of the shortage. It is because there are not many training facilities for the trade and conditions such as pay and holidays aren’t that good, so young people choose to go into other professions.

“But it is a very rewarding job. Most of our business is from regulars so you get to know people and it’s great when they complement you.

“It takes a long time to train as a curry chef, my head chef has ten year’s experience and compared to him I don’t like to call myself a chef. He has a unique taste for it.

” Mike Carpenter, owner of the newly opened Lakeside Continental Restaurant in Peatmoor explained: “We were very fortunate to keep our chef, Salim. He is one of the top 30 Indian chefs in the country. If we had lost him, we would have found it a struggle to find somebody else. It is very difficult to find skilled chefs in Swindon as many choose to work in the larger towns and cities like, Birmingham and London. It is important to give them the right pay and to treat them right, otherwise they will get on the phone and find somewhere else ­ that is how much demand there is.

” Enam Ali, chairman of the guild of Bangladeshi restaurateurs, would like to see more centres of excellence opened throughout the country like the Academy of Asian Culinary Arts of Thames Valley University in Ealing.

So bad is the skills shortage that the Home Secretary has agreed to look at relaxing the current work permit regulations to allow Asian and Oriental restaurants to recruit skilled staff from abroad.

Customer standards and expectation of Indian restaurants are rising all the time, demanding better- cooked dishes and highly skilled chefs and restaurant managers.