13th Asian Curry Awards 2023 celebrates the new heroes in British Asian Cuisine

On 19th November we celebrated the 13th Asian Curry Awards at the prestigious Grosvenor House Hotel in London’s Mayfair, where dozens of chefs and restaurateurs took their place on the rostrum to receive much deserved recognition. In the company of international and national dignitaries, diplomats, parliamentarians, regional mayors and celebrities, award winners joined the ranks of the best in British Curry cooking in what has become known as ‘the Curry Oscars’.

Over 300 restaurants were shortlisted after hundreds of thousands of votes were received from customers the length and breadth of the UK. The final 41 award winners, whose championship status was the result of a vigorous judging process, assumed the position as the true ambassadors for the best in authentic Asian curry cooking cuisine. The event attracted widespread national and regional TV and print media coverage with over 70 local and regional newspapers, reporting on the success of the winners.

The Mayor London, Sadiq Khan, addresses the 13th Asian Curry Awards at the Grosvenor House Hotel

The Mayor of London calls for greater support for the Asian Curry Industry

One of the many guests of honour, London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, offered a special thank you the many chefs and restaurateurs across the Britain’s curry industry. He said:

‘I want to thank all the businesses across the country which provide such great food, great cuisine and to recognise their contribution to our economy. I don’t think people realise this, but (you know) our curry restaurants by themselves, contribute more than £7.5 billion towards our economy. They’ve had a horrible two years with Brexit and the difficulty getting staff in, the consequences of the pandemic, the cost of doing business crisis, the energy crisis, but they still just carry on working.

I’m incredibly grateful, because they help regenerate our high streets, but also they show the very best of this country, which is a multicultural successful country and curry – whether its Chicken Tikka Masala, whether its Aloo bolaji or Saag Gosht or whether it’s a Peshwari Naan, we need to support our curry industry’

Message from the Prime Minister

The UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, shared many of the Mayor’s thoughts, and presented a statement to the attendees, which read:

‘I am delighted to extend my congratulations to all those attending the 13th Asian Curry Awards 2023. I applaud the hard work, dedication and passion of all the restaurants that have contributed to this prestigious event. The Asian Curry Awards not only celebrate excellence but also recognise the significant impact that Asian restaurants have on our economy and the rich diversity they bring to our communities. These establishments function as vibrant hubs where people of all backgrounds come together to savour the flavours and experience the unique traditions of Asian cuisine. Your dedication to excellence and commitment to preserving and sharing cultural heritage through food is commendable. I wish you all an enjoyable evening and continued success in all your endeavours.’

A clarion call to support the Asian catering Industry

These words from two of the most prominent figures in the world of British politics and whose authority is felt in the corridors of power are significant and were clearly heart felt. The message contained in them is one that needs to be both fully understood and translated into action. Their message should represent the clarion call to tangible change and purpose!

Those who have an interest in the Asian Catering Industry – those who profit/benefit from the 30,000 Asian restaurants and takeaways across Britain, either directly or indirectly, need now to fully grasp the magnitude of the challenges now confronting its practitioners. What does it mean to say that you support the curry industry or that you recognise how important it is to our economy?

As we enter the final quarter of 2023, as we move towards the end of a year – which has been fraught with economic, technological and social challenges, our industry has not only had to weather the storms of exiting from Europe with Brexit, two years of Covid 19, raging inflation, the cost of living crisis , but also the resultant ghosting of many of our high streets as customers opt to eat-in rather than eat-out. They have also had to find ways of competing with a developing online and unhealthy but convenient, fast food ready-made trend – which has seen the development of industrial scale food production sites away from the high street in industrial parks and warehouses. What is becoming increasingly clear is the growing threat this represents to quality, authenticity and freshness. Our restaurant owners and chefs are now the last vanguard of fresh cooking and in many ways they are the guardians of healthy eating and social interaction.

Online Food order and delivery platforms: a benefit or a burden?

Of perhaps greater significance is the increasing dependency of our members on the online food order and delivery platforms and the staggering rising cost of subscription.  Our members are not only required to suffer an effective charge of between 14% and 30% surcharge on the sale price of their products, but they are expected to surrender the loyalty of their customers – built up over years of trading and based on first hand interaction and genuine warm hospitality, to the new faceless third party entities, whose carefully targeted marketing campaigns, special offers (the cost of which is then passed on to the trader) and the convenience of direct press-button delivery, has become the acceptable norm for home eating. This whole process systematically erodes the market identities and profiles of our members and turns them simply into distribution centres, which can eventually and very easily be replaced by ready-made factory outlets.  Indeed the delivery platforms have already started to develop their own food production hubs, exempt from the cost of high street business rates and servicing staff costs, which our members are forced to endure. How are our members expected to compete? Record numbers of restaurants have been forced to close their doors in the last 12 months and there is little sign that this epidemic will change unless we rise to the challenge. According to one of the major accountancy firms in the UK, during 2023 an average of 5.6 restaurant businesses are going bust every day in Britain – nearly twice the level in 2021.

We must be bold in promoting the uniqueness of our member’s offerings and celebrate the authentic cuisine created by our skilled chefs – seasoned in authentic fresh cooking. It is vital that we protect the authentic and fresh cooking culture, which has been built up in the UK over many decades, and which underpinned the accolade given to the British Curry as Britain’s national dish.

I am pleased to report that the Asian Catering Federation and the Asian Curry Awards remains steadfast in its commitment to champion the cause of its members in protecting their interests, developing their businesses and promoting the British Curry Industry.  

To this end we are instigating a major survey amongst our members to document in confidence the important opinions, observations of those at the forefront of Asian cooking. It is vital that we hear and document your concerns and your recommendations and that we present these in confidence, to the attention of government, online food delivery platforms and our sponsors. Attached is a short, but important survey, which we ask that you complete. This will help us enormously in our work and we can assure you that any information provided by you will be treated with the upmost confidence, that solely the Asian Catering Federation and the Asian Curry Awards will use it and that the identity of the respondents will be kept in the strictest confidence.

Carl Arrindell
Director of Communications
Asian Curry Awards/Asian Catering Federation