When Enam Ali started these Awards back in 2005, he could never have dreamed that they would become the force they are today. He had high hopes of course. After all, his reason for establishing the Awards was to provide a fittingly glamorous national shop window for the new generation of restaurateurs who, by their investment, hard work and creativity, were already setting new quality standards that even the Michelin Guide inspectors could no longer ignore.
The concept of the “British Curry” is now so well established that it is possible to forget the opposition encountered before the first awards in 2005. There were a lot of people who objected, believing that this was an ‘Indian’ or ‘Bangladeshi’ only product. Enam Ali had to spend a considerable sum of his own money to fight legal battles against those who objected and successfully won these cases, to the benefit of all today. Enam was ‘ahead of the game’ in realising that the new generation, while proud of their roots, were nonetheless very ‘British’ and had evolved their own particular brand of curry. He was determined to give the talented people who were busy creating a whole new dining experience for our British customers their own identity. Now, of course, British curry is known and respected not just on these shores but throughout the world. As Enam likes to say, curry may have been born in India, but it’s in Britain that it has grown and matured. The British Curry Awards are recognition of that.
It would have been unthinkable at one time that our industry would be capable of organising and supporting the biggest and most spectacular annual event in the British hospitality industry calendar, or that it would be graced regularly with the attendance of our most senior politicians, leading statesmen and a whole host of famous celebrities. Her Majesty the Queen has been gracious enough to send us a message for our souvenir programme in each of the eight years of the Awards and we have been able to welcome in person several prominent Cabinet Ministers. In 2009 we were joined by David Cameron, then Leader of the Opposition and now, of course, our Prime Minister who continues to be a great supporter. It was he who dubbed the Awards “Britain’s curry ‘Oscars’.” The fact that the leaders of our country, as well as dozens of stars of TV and radio, are willing to give up some of their precious time to join us for our big night of the year is a measure of just how far we and our industry have come in a relatively short space of time.
Speaking at the first Awards evening back in 2005, Enam mentioned that many people had doubted that our industry could sustain such a large-scale, glamorous event. Eight years on, it’s safe to say they’ve been proved wrong!