Two curry restaurants a week are closing because there are not enough qualified chefs to cook the food.
By Charlotte Lomas-Farley, Sky News Reporter
It’s as synonymous with British cuisine as fish and chips but the much loved Indian curry is in crisis.
Restaurants up and down the country are complaining of a shortage in tandoori chefs, meaning two a week are closing their doors.
Raju Sattar owns one of the thousands of curry houses that are facing closure and he says the problem isn’t due to a lack of demand.
“We are simply finding it very difficult to fill the vacancies,” he says.
“We can get people for front of house roles or kitchen staff but not to be a chef.
“The learning process is perhaps too long and sometimes people only come here for three months. The job is too much for them.”
Enam Ali, MBE, a Bangladeshi businessman who runs an award winning Indian restaurant in Epsom, blames several factors for the turmoil in the industry.
Firstly, attitudes among second generation Indian and Bangladeshis are changing.
They are shunning a career in the kitchen and enjoying the opportunity and education their parents worked hard to provide.
Another reason is the UK’s immigration policy, which Mr Ali says is too strict.
He is calling on the Government to allow two-year working visas so experienced chefs can fly in from abroad.
“The gap is huge,” he says.
“There are 12,000 restaurants. If they need two chefs then that means a gap of 24,000. How do we fill this?
“French restaurants are suffering too but they are lucky. Every year they get a graduate – I don’t have that. ”
Ali says the situation has worsened recently.
Britain puts a cap on skilled migrants arriving from outside the EU and chefs coming in must be paid at least £29,570 a year.
That is £5,000 more than the average salary in the industry.
Since most of Indian restaurants are small, family run businesses many are struggling to meet this demand.
But critics argue that the shortage in specialised chefs has nothing to do with immigration.
Rather, it is a reluctance on the part of Bangladeshi restaurants to hire female chefs or those resident to the UK.
The Home Office says it wants to “nurture more home grown talent… and recruit resident workers to meet staffing needs”.
The question is whether this will be enough to stop the number of Indian restaurants disappearing from Britain’s high streets.