Bradford College’s International Food Academy (IFA) hit the news headlines earlier last year when it came to the rescue of the ‘curry crisis’, with a range of innovative new courses that focus on specialist qualifications in Asian and International cuisine.
The BBC’s ‘One Show’ renowned for its investigative journalism, topical reports and interviews from around the UK, visited Bradford College to discover if the International Food Academy really could address the skills shortage in the industry – and train British born cooks to become the curry chefs of the future.
Take a look at the footage...
This follows the announcement that restaurateurs throughout the country are facing an unprecedented ‘Curry Crisis’ and are struggling to find skilled chefs due to a tightening of immigration laws.
Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles joined the debate and is backing the launch of ‘Curry Colleges’ across the UK. He will be joining the Principal of Bradford College, Michele Sutton, OBE and the Head of the International Food Academy, Graham Fleming later this year to see how the International Food Academy is leading the way.
With only 3 months experience as a trainee chef at the IFA, 20 year Demi Shoesmith decided to take on the One Show’s ‘curry cook off challenge’.
Explaining how she felt to be featured the One Show, Demi remarked: “I loved it! It was a great experience for me! Despite the pressure, I was determined to do my very best.” During the filming of the One Show, Dem’s skills as a trainee chef were tested against a seasoned and experienced top chef from acclaimed Asian restaurant and café bar chain Lahore.
Whilst the cameras rolled, Managing Director of Lahore Restaurants, Mr Shakoor Ahmed and One Show TV Presenter Simon Boazman were blindfolded and asked to taste both dishes in the ultimate ‘curry taste challenge’. The ‘curry cook off’ was a close contest, despite Demi’s limited experience as a trainee chef. Lahore’s top chef piped Demi to the post with his mouth watering dish.
Despite selecting the Lahore curry as his preferred choice, Mr Ahmed was impressed with Demi culinary skills and passion, conceding that the IFA was capable of training chefs well enough to work in his restaurants.
Demi credits her ongoing enthusiasm for perfecting the perfect pakora and brilliant balti to IFA Head Chef, Colin Burt. Elaborating further Demi said: “He’s a good tutor and is always coming up with new ideas for us to get involved in.”
Demi has ambitious plans to open her own restaurant once she has completed her studies. Demi has a three year old daughter and is determined to succeed to give her child more opportunities in life. Demi added: “I’m doing this for my daughter. I need to go into something where she’s happy and if I get a restaurant she will be ok.”
Elaborating further Demi said: “I was grateful for the experience. I was OK with the outcome, although I was slightly disappointed as I cooked my dish at 11 o’clock and my dish didn’t get tested until 3. I think if we’d both had the opportunity to cook the dishes at the same time (which I knew couldn’t be possible because there was only one cameraman) there might have been a different outcome.
When asked if Demi would do it all again, Demi smiled and said confidently “Yes definitely!”
This is the latest in a string of ‘curry loving initiatives’ to emerge from International Food Academy, including the search for the UK’s Junior Curry Chef and smashing the Guinness World Record for the biggest bhaji in the world, in partnership with award winning restaurant Prashad.
Commenting on the One Show’s ‘cook off challenge’ and the need to address the skills shortage in Asian restaurants, Head Chef at the IFA, Colin Burt said: “We’re keen to promote and encourage British born chefs, both female and male to develop the skills needed to fill the gap - and where better to begin than the curry capital!”
Mr Burt continued: “We can produce authentic Asian dishes that are appreciated by our customers. The students are able to produce Asian dishes to a level which they could (if they so wished) be employed by the local restaurants. This has been confirmed by the local restaurants who now want to forge links with us and employ our students in their eateries!”
Changing social values within the Asian communities has meant that aspirational young people are often no longer choosing to follow in their parents’ footsteps and go into the family catering business. This has meant that one in four jobs for chefs is vacant. This red hot issue has since been the subject of Parliamentary debate, with the cuisine worth a staggering £3.5bn to the UK economy.
Leading restaurateur, Prashad’s Bobby Patel reflected: “I think the question here is ‘Are Indian cooking skills transferable in a western student?’ The answer to that question has to come from the passion of that person - and the quality of education they get. Any skill is transferable.”
Mr Patel added: “I think it’s a fantastic challenge set by the One Show. I also think it’s important to note that Demi (in putting herself forward for this challenge) has demonstrated great confidence and commitment after such a small amount of time training at the College. As a young mum, living on her own, she has embraced an opportunity to change her life!”
Head of the International Food Academy, Graham Fleming remarked: “Working with top Asian restaurants, we’re delighted to support the development of these inspiring young cooks of the future, whilst plugging the gap in the current staffing crisis.”
Mr Fleming concluded: “Most of the businesses in Bradford want to support the development of the Academy. Now ‘Curry Capital of the UK Award’ is firmly back in Bradford – It is the right time and the right place to develop the Academy further.”