The Curry House      UK Curry Scene

Chef of the Year 2009 & Chai Bari launched
14th July 2008

I've just been to two launches in one day courtesy of our old friend and human dynamo Tommy Miah. Not content with launching the 2008/2009 International Indian Chef of the Year Competition in the afternoon Tommy then went on to launch his new venture, Chai Bari, in the evening.

Tommy Miah and Pete Wishart MP
Tommy Miah and Pete Wishart MP
          This year's International Indian Chef of the Year Competition was officially opened by Pete Wishart, Scottish National Party MP and former member of the band Runrig, at a reception held at the House of Commons. Those of us who attended the reception were reminded that the competition is unique in as much as there are no entry qualifications or barriers.

As you might expect, many entrants are restaurant chefs but, despite the competition's name, you don't have to be a chef to enter. The competition is open to anyone who can cook Indian-style food no matter what their profession, ethnic background, sex or age. In fact the oldest finalist in the competition was a 69 year old Australian businessman. The youngest was a 20 year old female student from Malaysia.

If you've ever taken a look at our Curry Scene pages you would have seen that we have covered a number of Tommy's International Indian Chef Competitions over the years. I'm pleased to say that the format has not changed. As I mentioned above, anyone can enter and there is no entry fee. All you have to do to enter the competition is to design your ideal Indian-style meal of 4 dishes – 2 of meat, poultry or fish and 2 vegetarian. There are no heats or semi finals. The 8 finalists are chosen purely on the strength and originality of the menu they have devised. Then comes the hard bit if you happen to be chosen as a finalist. You have to cook the meal you've devised in just 2½ hours in front of a distinguished panel of judges.

If you are lucky enough to win the title then a prize of £1000 will be yours. There is an additional award, the Lady Fraser Prize, of £250 for the best vegetarian dish. All 8 finalists will enjoy an expenses-paid trip to Telford College in Edinburgh for the cook-off early in 2009.
         a fine spread at the House of Commons
a fine spread at the House of Commons

Entries for the competition have risen steadily over the years to the point where last year there were over 5000 hopeful entrants. So, to stand a chance of reaching the final, your menu will have to be as original as it is appetising. Take a look at our Curry Scene pages for details of previous winning menus if you want to see what you'll be up against. If you wish to enter for the 2008/9 competition you will need to obtain an entry form by writing to :

International Indian Chef of the Year Competition
Bengal Tiger House
85-91 Henderson Street

Doros Ullah and Tommy Miah at Chai Bari
Doros Ullah and Tommy Miah at the launch of Chai Bari
          As I mentioned at the start, the launch of International Indian Chef was followed in the evening by an altogether different kind of event marking the opening of Tommy Miah's new venture, Chai Bari, at his Raj Hotel in Islington. After the ancient and sombre architecture of the House of Commons the light, modern atmosphere at Chai Bari couldn't have been more of a contrast. Chai Bari means Tea House and that's what they'll be offering (at least during the day). All manner of tea will be available - green, black, masala, herbal, you-name-it. In the evening though tea will be replaced by champagne and cocktails as the drinks of choice. I don't know if they'll be selling the champagne with a whole chilli that I tasted but, if they do, be sure to give it a try. Chai Bari was officially opened by Doros Ullah, former Mayor of Tower Hamlets, who explained that it marks the completion of the first phase in transforming the former Elena Hotel in Islington into the London Raj Hotel.

So, having had a long day dining on delicious spicy canapés and drinking champagne I made my weary way home. It's a tough job but someone's got to do it.

related links :

International Indian Chef of the Year Competition
Tommy Miah

back to UK Curry Scene

go to The Curry House home page

© 2008 David W Smith