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Wow! What can I say? Being part of the Olympics was an experience beyond anything I have encountered before. It was an honour and a privilege to be able to serve all the VIPs and sponsor’s guests with Le Raj food on the Olympic Park site. I have always said that I will take curry where it has never been before and going to the Olympics certainly was a step further that I have ever gone. I have to pinch myself sometimes to think that Bill Gates was served our curry during the Games! There were many other famous faces and celebrities who we were able to introduce our food to, so it was a great opportunity to promote our industry.

My special thanks to all the people who supported me throughout the Olympics and of course our partner Smart Event Hospitality. London hosting the Olympics in 2012 has been a real joy and a source of pride for all of us. The open- ing and closing ceremonies were particularly amazing with one surprise after another. The one pity was that many busi- nesses and restaurants did not benefit from the Games as they hoped to do. But perhaps there will be some longer term benefits.

Now the Olympics is over it is back down to earth and facing the reality of the many problems that affect our industry. Finding skilled chefs in this country is still really hard and the same applies if you want to bring one from abroad. I have had personal experience of this recently and it has rein- forced my view that we must keep pressing the Government on this issue.

Our campaign to reduce VAT is ongoing. I believe the current government will eventually listen to our pleas and be coura- geous enough to take the bold step of reducing VAT for res- taurants. If they do it will be something that will not just help restaurant owners but the Government as well, by bringing in more taxes and reducing unemployment.

For the last few years I have been issuing warnings about the threats to our industry from factors such as the short- age of skilled chefs and the high rate of VAT. Until recently, the vast majority of our restaurateurs have just about man- aged to muddle through. As a result some people accused me of crying wolf. But alas, my predictions are now begin- ning to come true. As you’ll see restaurants are now begin- ning to lose the fight for survival or, in the case of the Masala World chain, cancel plans to expand its operations in the UK. I hope you will consider doing your own story about the problems our industry is facing. Obviously I’ll be only too pleased to give you any help I can to enable you to get the facts together and talk to the right people.

Taking on the copycat cheats is another issue we have to persevere with. Whether it is menus, restaurant names, awards, events, there are people out there who will copy to get an advantage. This is tough for businesses who have worked hard to get into a good position only to find others trying to make a profit on their name.

It is that time of the year again. This year’s British Curry Awards are taking place on Monday 26th November at The Battersea Evolution and it promises to be bigger and better than ever before. We are expecting a record break- ing number of nominations this year and we are adding a new category for Best Delivery Restaurant. This applies to both takeaways only and restaurants that deliver to peoples’ homes. I look forward to seeing you there!

Enam Ali MBE-FIH

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