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She is supported by Geoff Booth, Director of Hospitality at Westminster Kingsway College, who adds, “We are all very excited about establishing a network of Asian and Oriental training centres of excellence and are all intent on leaving a legacy for future generations to benefit from.”

The Hospitality Guild has been working closely with Springboard UK and professional associations representing the Asian and Oriental cuisine industry. Chef Akhtar Islam, Lasan’s Restaurant in Birmingham, has welcomed the initia- tive. He says, “By joining forces with colleges, People 1st and the Hospitality Guild, our industry will be benefited and able to train home grown talent and overcome the challenge of not being able to recruit skilled staff from abroad.”

Eric Pickles MP, the Communities Secretary, who is a self- declared ‘curry lover’ and champion of the industry, has also given his backing to a scheme which is designed to encour- age people of all backgrounds to become chefs or members of staff in the Asian food sector. According to Mr Pickles, “Asian cuisine is part of the very fabric of our national life, a multi-billion pound industry and a great success story, in which we should all take pride. We will continue to work with the industry to help raise the prestige of the sector and

encourage people of all backgrounds to succeed at the very highest levels, not just in front of the tandoor, but in manage- ment too.”

Also supportive of the initiative is Enam Ali, founder of the British Curry Awards. He says, “We have campaigned long and hard to get in place curry colleges to overcome the chef crisis this industry faces. Originally there was a plan to set up one curry college but we questioned how one college would be able to cater for the whole curry industry and it is good to see we have been listened to.”

One of the leading advocate of the importance of training in the spice industry is Cyrus Todiwall, and he too is very much in favour of the College of Excellence programme. ”In our industry training is key as it is one of the most com- plicated within the hospitality sector because we have so many disciplines,” He says. “Let us join our hearts, minds and soul together to make this work. We are nurturing Britain’s home grown talent and this is an essential part of our development.”

The industry recognises that the government has to do something to control mass immigration. But there is great concern over the damage the Government is doing to the industry by imposing draconian rules, including minimum salary requirements for skilled chefs coming into the UK. The Government’s backing for the centres of excellence will do much to restore confidence that the Government is commit- ted to supporting the industry through difficult times, when as many as one in four chef vacancies are still unfilled.

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