The Curry Campaign
For many celebrating National Curry Week (7th – 13th October) over 15,000 tons of Chicken Jhalfrezi and Tikka Masala will be devoured. But the £3.5bn Curry Economy in Britain is feeling the tightening grip of the Government’s ‘Points Based’ Immigration System, as the policy restricts entry from foreign born, Asian chefs into Britain’s 15,000 Indian restaurants. With curry firmly knitted into the fabric of British culture and cuisine, it’s widely regarded as global centre of Indian food outside of India and currently employs over 60,000 people.
The British Asian chef and Indian food author, Ivor Peters aka Urban Rajah [Urban Rajah’s Curry Memoirs] has launched a counter initiative to cultivate home grown British talent into Blighty’s Indian food industry. Launching the Urban Rajah’s Spice Academy, the Indian food pop up restaurateur and his culinary collaborator, Indunil Sanchi (Pub Curry Chef of the Year 2011, 2012 & 2013 and Head Chef at the Noel Arms) is recruiting bloggers and chefs to join him in a movement to train a generation of world class Indian food chefs from Britain regardless of whether they possess an Asian heritage or not. The initiative is being backed by BITE food festival organisers and the Bespoke Hotels plus food journalist Ben Mirza who sparked the idea with his Curry Campaign Blog – www.currycampaign.co.uk
Urban Rajah comments, “I’m on a mission to blow away the myth that creating fantastic Indian food only belongs in the hands of those with an Asian heritage. We’ve been enjoying curry in Britain since the 1800s and it’s firmly part of British culture. So we should be turning out our own Indian food talent which not only serves spice hungry Brits but can also be exported around the globe.”
Ben adds, “I’ve always has had a passion for good food, and growing up in a mixed race household, I was exposed to tasty Indian cuisine from an early age. When I heard about the current crises facing Britain’s curry industry, I decided to launch the Curry Campaign, in the hope of bringing this crisis to wider attention. Moreover, I thought the time had come to breathe new life into the debate about Indian cuisine in Britain, which has been a staple part of British cooking since the for nearly 200 years, with many dishes incorporating Indian spices and other ingredients, creating food that is unique to the British Isles. With the Curry Campaign, I’m hoping to reinvigorate people’s passion for Indian cuisine.”
The itinerant chef and Sanchi are currently touring with his pop-up restaurant the Great Indian Food Feast, which encourages diners to get hands on with live Indian food demos. Urban Rajah believes that, “To wait for Policy makers to review their position on immigration is wasted energy. As a nation we have an unabated appetite for Indian food and we should be figuring out how we train British talent throughout the British Isles to cultivate their gourmet ambitions. Whether it’s to enter the kitchens of Indian restaurants as chefs, start up an Indian food business or simply learn how to cook Indian cuisine at home we have the opportunity to bring diversity to the Curry Economy.”
Julian Ebbutt, BITE Festival Director adds, “We’re totally behind this campaign and supporting pioneers for positive change in Britain’s food landscape is well and truly on our agenda which is why we’re backing Curry SOS by hosting a series of Urban Rajah Spice Academy masterclasses across our festivals.”
Together with food festival organisers BITE and Bespoke Hotels, the Spice Academy will be able to offer Spice Masterclasses and workshops in over 60 locations throughout the UK. Urban Rajah is urging Catering Colleges to partner with the initiative to help those wanting to complement their ambitions with academic qualifications to hitch up their rickshaw and join the journey.