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The Curry House      UK Curry Scene




International Indian Chef of the Year Competition
16th January 2004
(scroll down for update)
Here's a brain teaser for you. What have an English in-flight caterer, a college lecturer, a housewife and a deportee have in common? Give up? Well, they are all past winners of the International Indian Chef of the Year Competition. The deportee in question was a Bangladeshi chef whose deportation was delayed by the authorities so that he could stay in the competition. And he won!

The glory of the Competition is that it is free to enter, is open to amateurs and professional alike and has no restrictions on the ethnic origin, nationality or sex of the contestants. That could be why the list of entrants has soared from an initial 400 for the inaugural competition to a massive 5000 for this year's 13th event. Or it could be that the all expenses paid trip to Edinburgh for the finalists or the Pounds Sterling1000 prize for the winner might have something to do with it. Who knows?

Tommy Miah and Alex Salmond
Tommy Miah and Alex Salmond
at the House of Commons reception
      Whatever drives 5000 people to enter the competition they must all be aware that there can only be one winner and, to be that winner, they must have been one of the 8 finalists. A reception was held yesterday in the House of Commons to announce the finalists and The Curry House was there to hear the result. The honour of declaring the finalists fell to Alex Salmond MP, who is also on the Panel of Judges. He told us that the finalists are :


Farooq Ahmed from Rochdale, Lancashire
Wasim Aslam from Shipley, Yorkshire
Abu Choudury from London
Mrs Jabeen Fatema from Khulna, Bangladesh
Kapil Kausik from Edinburgh
Anil Rozario from Oxford
Ian Smith from Bonar Bridge, Sutherland


Hang on! Weren't there supposed to be 8 finalists? That's only 7. Can't MP's count? But no, it wasn't an error, the remaining place in the final is guaranteed to the winner of the Indian Chapter of the contest but the organisers are not expecting the announcement from Delhi until 21st January.

So who does organise the International Indian Chef of the Year Competition? It was founded in 1991 by Edinburgh entrepreneur Tommy Miah as a means to promote innovation and quality in Indian cuisine. Tommy Miah is something of a human dynamo. Not only is he an accomplished chef in his own right but he is also a restaurateur, hotelier, writer of cookery books, businessman and promoter of numerous charitable events. When I finally caught up with Tommy I found out that as well as jointly hosting the House of Commons reception with Alex Salmond he had also cooked the buffet we were all enjoying.       International Indian Chef of the Year Competition

For a competition to find the best Indian chef there was a distinctly Scottish theme to the proceedings. Tommy Miah is based in Edinburgh, Alex Salmond is a Scottish National Party MP and one of the finalists' places was reserved for the contestant who could best show the judges that he or she could create Indian dishes based upon Scottish sea fish. The winner of that place was another Scot, Ian Smith, who owns The Caledonian Curry Company. Ian's entry is a haddock platter of fish kofta, fish toasties and fish pakora together with a monkfish, rhubarb and oyster curry, chanterelle pulao rice and a Highland beetroot curry.

The competition now moves on to, you've guessed it, Edinburgh for the final cook-off on 13th February. The finalists will be given 3 hours to prepare, cook and present a meal of 4 dishes in the kitchens of Queen Margaret University College. Then it's up to the judges.

The winner will be announced at Edinburgh's prestigious Curry Ball. Profits from the Ball go to Sreepur Village which is an orphanage in Dhaka, Bangladesh. After all his hard work I do hope Tommy Miah finds time to enjoy the Curry Ball himself.


update - 16th February 2004
It was the 13th contest and held on Friday 13th but it turned out to be Kapil Kaushik's lucky day. He was crowned the new International Indian Chef of the Year after a 3 hour cook-off against 6 other competitors . The final of the competition was held at Edinburgh's Queen Margaret University College. The happy winner declared "This is such an achievement for me - it is a new beginning".

Kapil Kaushik is chef at Edinburgh's upmarket Oloroso restaurant but until a year ago worked as a chef in Delhi. His menu consisted of chilli dosa-wrapped saddle of rabbit with masala mash, Jaipuri bhindi, fenugreek John Dory and jhinga rice nori. The runners up were Mrs Jabeen Fatema, executive chef of the Royal International Hotel, Khulna, Bangladesh and Anil Rozario, a chef from Oxford

The result was announced by Lord Fraser of Carmyllie who explained that the judges had faced a hard task. He went on to stress that all seven finalists could regard themselves as winners as they had already triumphed over 5,000 expert cooks. Only 8 points, out of a possible 100, separated the winner and the lowest placed finalist.





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© 2004 David W Smith