UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reflected on the “best training” he had for the top job at 10 Downing Street while doing shifts at his local curry house in Southampton.
In a video message to the annual British Curry Awards in London this week, which he referred to as the "Curry Oscars", the British Indian leader referenced his time at Kuti’s Brasserie: “The thing I've learnt about being Prime Minister is that the best training I ever had was working in a curry house.
“In all seriousness, I know how hard every one of you works – from the chefs to the waiters to the restaurant managers and the delivery drivers. And that experience gave me a huge appreciation of business, of the importance of treating people fairly and the value of this most iconic of British Asian industries.”
The 18th British Curry Awards celebrate UK eateries serving food from the Indian subcontinent, based on a nationwide nominations process led by the local patrons annually invited to nominate their favourite curry restaurants and takeaways.
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The 2022 award winners included some popular names and also newer and lesser-known restaurants:
Best Restaurant Scotland: Swadish by Ajay Kumar, Glasgow
Best Restaurant North East: Khai Khai Indian Restaurant, Newcastle
Best Restaurant North West: Mowgli Street Food Liverpool
Best Restaurant East Midlands: Calcutta Club Restaurant, Nottingham
Best Restaurant West Midlands: Lasan, Birmingham
Best Restaurant Wales: Purple Poppadom, Cardiff
Best Restaurant South East: Shampan at the Spinning Wheel, Westerham, Kent
Best Restaurant South West: Prithvi Restaurant, Cheltenham
Best Restaurant London Central & City: Benares, Mayfair
Best Restaurant London Suburbs: Copper Ceylon, Bromley
Best Takeaway: Maliks Express Kitchen, Gerrards Cross
Best Newcomer: Colonel Saab, Holborn
Personality of the Year Award: Khalilur Rahman, Khalil Foods
“We will always ensure to present a united voice for the British curry industry. And as a restaurateur myself, I am acutely aware of the adverse and unconducive economic situation we are currently facing,” said Jeffrey Ali, who took over as Director of the British Curry Awards from his late father and awards founder Enam Ali.
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The audience heard how the UK’s curry industry faces uncertainty amid a cost-of-living crisis. The British Curry Awards caution that with spiralling costs, it is estimated that the average price of a curry could reach as much as £30, which industry leaders fear could lead to the closure of thousands of curry restaurants across the UK.
According to the experts, restaurateurs serving up cuisine with its origins in South Asian have seen their shopping bills increase by an average of 40 per cent. The situation is seen as unsustainable for the industry as curry houses are desperately trying to minimise off-setting these costs against menu pricing.
Stuart Herrington, Head of UK Account Management at online food delivery brand Just Eat, supporters of the awards, said: “Awards like this rightly shine the spotlight on the hard-working people behind the restaurants and takeaways that are making an invaluable contribution to their local community and the UK economy.
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“As we all know too well, the hospitality industry is facing increasingly tough challenges. Inflation has climbed to its highest levels for many years, the price of food and energy bills continues to soar, interest rates are increasing at an unprecedented speed and we are still seeing staff shortages as a result of Brexit and Covid. There is no denying that it’s an incredibly challenging outlook.
“This is why we introduced a £1 million Inflation Support Package to aid small, independent businesses, like the ones many of you in this room run. We also spearheaded the British Takeaway Campaign, in which we are currently calling on the government to introduce five new policies to support the sector’s growth. These include freezing VAT rates at 12.5 per cent, extending business rates relief until the end of 2022 and introducing a working visa for people from Commonwealth countries.”