Crisis talks were held last week as restaurant owners battle against a combination of border controls, rising costs and tough competition.

Read more: Oli Khan Senior Vice President of BCA comments published on "Daily Star Sunday" 13th June 2015

PASHA KHANDAKER is the owner of a small chain of curry houses in Kent, and it’s getting smaller. One restaurant closed eight months ago, and the remainder are struggling. He has only three people manning each kitchen, whereas he needs six. Mr Khandaker fears that this will mean “poor service and poor customer satisfaction”. The problem, he laments, is that he can’t get enough chefs, from within Britain or, more importantly, from South Asia.

Read more: BCA President Pasha Khandaker Comments published on "The Economist" in 20th June 2015

The BCA President and NEC Members followed with the BCA Regional Committee Members organized a number of discussion sessions with the parliamentary Election Candidates for the upcoming Election 2015. They exchanged views and commitments about the British Curry Industry prospects and problems to overcome.

Read more: Discussion with the parliamentary Party Candidate to secure the Curry Industry Future

A pinch of cardamom, a little coriander and a smattering of cinnamon - all ingredients not just in a great British curry but in a political row that's been bubbling up in the kitchens of Indian restaurants up and down the country.

It begins with a question - where is the next generation of curry chefs going to come from - and ends in with another - would leaving the EU save your local Indian from closing?

Currently two or three curry restaurants are shutting every week.

Now, you may think you know the answer to where Indian chefs come from. If so think again.

For decades your "Indian" - whether a chicken tikka masala or late night vindaloo - was almost certainly cooked by a chef from Bangladesh or, perhaps, someone whose father was.

Not any more though. The voices you hear in a growing number of kitchens above the noise of the chopping and the sizzling are the voices of East Europeans - in particular Romanians.

The reason is that tougher immigration rules mean it simply costs too much for most restaurants to bring new chefs over here.

 

A decade or so ago a curry chef would earn around £15,000 a year. Now, a restaurant has to pay almost double that as well as jumping a series of complex bureaucratic hurdles to persuade the Home Office to allow them to bring in a chef from abroad.

 

"Abroad" means, of course, not from outside the UK but outside the EU.

Inside the kitchen of Le Raj in Epsom

Pasha Khandakar, the president of the Bangladesh Caterers Association, told me that this was an "immigration double standard".

"We've been told by British ministers to import European Union people," he said, pointing to a "language problem, a culture problem and a smell problem." He contends that Eastern European workers dislike the smell of curries.

"We have to give chance for everyone in this world who's fit for these jobs - not for their colour, not for their geographical identity."

'Save the curry industry'

"Why should it be easier and cheaper to hire a Romanian to work in a curry house than a Bangladeshi?" many British Asians ask.

 

Why, indeed, should it be so easy for Eastern Europeans to bring their families to live with them when it is now so much harder than it once was for the families of British people with Commonwealth roots to do the same?

A curry meal

It is the widespread feeling that immigration rules now discriminate against them and their families which Brexit campaigners have sought to tap into.

Indeed, the employment minister and prominent Leave campaigner, Priti Patel, has claimed that a vote to quit the EU is the only way to save the curry industry.

That depends on a very big assumption. That following Brexit the British public would become so relaxed about immigration that politicians felt able to relax the immigration rules that stop low paid and low skilled workers coming here from elsewhere.

At Le Raj in Epsom - an upmarket restaurant in Surrey which is a favourite of Chris Tarrant and Heston Blumenthal - that's not how they see things.

The head chef here is a Bangladeshi. Recently he's had to brush up on his language skills - to learn not English but Romanian.

 

His kitchen is manned now by people who had never smelt a curry never mind cooked one before coming to work under his tutelage.

FOOD ALLERGY WARNING

Restaurant & Takeaway must follow the rules as it's by law and EU law changed from 13th Dec 2014. 

Read more: FOOD ALLERGY WARNING & EU FOOD LABELLING LAW

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