The search for the UK’s Junior Curry Chef 2012 began in the heart of Bradford – the Curry Capital of England and reached a dramatic climax when Gordon Ramsay’s prodigy Minal Patel went into labour hours before the competition began.
Working closely with Bradford College’s International Food Academy (IFA), Minal and the team at award winning restaurant Prashad have backed the innovative competition in a bid to encourage aspiring young cooks to become the curry chefs of the future.
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The International Food Academy (IFA) was delighted to host the National Finals of the UK’s Junior Curry Chef Competition on the 3rd April 2012. The tough cooking competition saw budding young ‘master chefs’ being pushed to the absolute extremes of their cooking abilities, in the battle to be crowned National Junior Curry Chef 2012.
Commenting on the competition, event organiser and Head Chef of the IFA, Colin Burt said: “The Junior Curry Chef Competition has been prompted by the ‘Curry Crisis’ and the need to address the skills shortage in the Asian restaurants. We’re keen to promote and encourage young chefs, both female and male to develop the skills needed to fill the gap.”
The competition 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.
Talented young chefs pulled out all the stops to impress a panel of esteemed judges with their preparation, cooking and presentation of a curry dish of their choice.
Critically acclaimed Mr Mumtaz Khan, International Food Manufacturer and Managing Director of Mumtaz group of restaurants was one of the prestigious judges of the national finals, along with award winning chef Mr Wasim Aslam. Earlier this year Wasim Aslam’s father, Mohammed Aslam MBE, was appointed as the Chief Patron of the IFA. Mohammed Aslam MBE is the Managing Director of Aagrah group of restaurants.
Commenting on the standard of entry, Wasim Aslam said: “I think it’s been fantastic! I’ve been extremely impressed. The competitors from the ‘16 and under category’ have produced outstanding dishes and the presentation has been immaculate. The competitors from the ‘18 years and under category’ are no different from any adult; their knife skills, presentation, taste and flavour of the food was authentic… it was brilliant! I think they’ve all got promising futures ahead of them!”
Commenting on the calibre of entries, Mr Mumtaz Khan said: “I’m very impressed with the standard of entries from these exciting new chefs coming into the industry. They’ve all chosen very hard dishes to make, which demonstrates the level of skill, confidence and commitment these innovative young chefs possess.”
Prashad’s Kaushy Patel was announced as an esteemed judge for the national competition. With daughter-in-law Minal Patel going into labour hours before the competition began, Naveed Ditta from Shimla Restaurant kindly stepped in to take Kaushy’s place. Established in 1974, Shimla’s reputation for excellence has grown over the decades with the food described by the Guardian as ‘fantastic’ and ‘remarkably good’.
Reflecting on the up and coming talent from the junior chefs, Naveed Ditta said: “I’m amazed at the amount of talent these kids have got at such a young age - hopefully they will go a long way in the industry!”
Torn between an array of extraordinarily top-class dishes from the budding young finalists, the panel of judges decision to select winners from each category (18 years and under) and (16 years and under) was difficult in the tough cooking competition.
Habiba Khan, Bobby Lee Smail and Faris Amin reached the finals of the 18 and under category. 18-year-old Habiba Khan served up a delicious Karahi Gosht and aloo gobi with chapattis to win the title.
Commenting on being crowned ‘Junior Curry Chef 2012’, Habiba modestly remarked: “I wasn’t really expecting it. This is just a typical dish I cook at home. I’ve been cooking since the age of 8 and feel quite passionate about it!” Habiba also received a cheque for 200 pounds.
Oliver Robinson, Kyle Richardson and Saheefa Shafique battled it out for a place in the 16 and under category. 15 year old Kyle Richardson scooped the title by wowing the judges with his Malaysian Chicken Curry, Boiled Rice, Steamed Pak Choi and Naan Bread. Kyle has been cooking since the age of 7! Kyle said: “I feel ecstatic to have won today!” Determined Kyle travelled from Blackpool to compete for a place in the National Finals. Kyle also received a cheque for 200 pounds.
Westmill Foods and Wharfevalley were proud sponsors of the culinary curry event, which saw young hopefuls turn up the heat in the kitchen to impress the judges.
Ross Maslen, Senior Brand Manager for Westmill Foods, speaking at the event said: “The standard today was very, very high. These young chefs have shown a lot of enthusiasm and passion for cooking. I think anyone who has that much passion and dedication for cooking will always have a brilliant future ahead of them.”
All competitors in the national final received cash prizes and were presented with an official Bradford College certificate, curry cookery book, pestle and mortar and embroidered chef’s jacket.
Colin Burt, Head Chef at the International Food Academy reflecting on the success of the competition said: “Everyone including the prestigious judges have been blown away by the standard of entries from these young budding chefs. Look out for these bright young stars of the future!”