Why is the UK in a curry crisis?

Since 1809, the UK has enjoyed a good curry, however, in 2016 the UK is facing an – increasing – curry crisis. But why?

Some explanations:

  1. Changes to UK visa rules (2008) have led to a reduction in recruitment of experienced chefs from South Asia.
  2. Curry colleges aimed at training young British people in South Asian cuisine – a Government initiative – are failing.
  3. 2nd and 3rd generation British Asians are shunning long hours, low-pay and stigma of restaurant based work.
  4. Competition has increased due to Britain’s booming restaurant industry.

Changes to UK visa rules in 2008 raised the cost and increased the bureaucratic process for non-UK citizens obtaining a (Tier 2) visa to work in the UK. This cumbersome, expensive process – which can take months, and thousands of pounds, to obtain – has effectively excluded many highly skilled chefs coming to work in the UK. From April 2016, this situation will be worsened still.

Ok, so why not train up British citizens? Well, in 2012 the British Government introduced curry colleges with the aim of recruiting and training young British talent as Indian (South Asian) chefs. These are failing. Initially, only 16 places were taken out of the 75 available. The domestic interest in training in this area is seemingly not there.

In addition, the stigma of working in a restaurant – long hours, low-pay – is not attractive to young British people – and who can blame them?

With competition increasing in Britain’s booming restaurant industry, the Indian restaurant, in particular, is suffering.

Radio programmes exploring this further:

Why is the UK in a curry crisis?
Hardeep Singh Kohli investigates how a critical shortage of chefs is threatening the future of the British curry industry.

Crisis in the Curry Kitchen

Hardeep Singh Kohli investigates how a critical shortage of chefs is threatening the future of the British curry industry.

The humble curry house has been a staple of Britain’s food landscape since the 1970s – with Robin Cook famously declaring chicken tikka masala as Britain’s national dish in 2001. Today there are 10,000 spice restaurants, from local curry houses to grand Michelin-starred dining rooms, employing 80,000 people in an industry worth £3.6bn.

However, we may be we witnessing the beginning of the end of the High Street curry house because a chronic lack of skilled chefs has plunged the industry into crisis.

The government’s answer to the skills shortage was to invest nearly £2m in five ‘curry colleges’, aiming to close the skills gap by providing young Britons and EU citizens with employment opportunities in curry house kitchens.

Hardeep talks to tutors, pupils, the Asian Restaurant Skills Board, chefs and restaurant owners in Birmingham – the home of the Balti curry – to find out why interest in the courses is so low and why recruitment is proving so difficult.

Produced by Rahul Verma.
A PPM production for BBC Radio 4.

Other news articles:

Guardian: UK Indian Restaurants Struggling to Curry on Lack of Chefs

Independent: Now Camerons Tough Immigration Rules Could Mean the End of the Great British Curry Night

Financial Times: The great British curry crisis

BBC: The ‘curry colleges’ failing to attract students

BBC: Curry colleges start recruiting British trainees

BBC: ‘Curry colleges’ to help create jobs for UK unemployed

Cover picture credit: http://indiatodaynews.in/category/food/

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