Communities Secretary Eric Pickles this week joined Britain’s leading Indian chefs and restaurateurs to launch a new scholarship programme for students to develop their careers in high-end Asian cuisine and restaurant management.
Led by the University of West London - one of five Centres of Excellence in Asian and Oriental cuisine – the programme underlines the importance of South Asian cuisine to the British economy and the need to develop highly-skilled British talent in a sector that has depended traditionally on attracting chefs from abroad.
“There was a time when, for most people, Asian cuisine meant a post-pub Friday-night curry, but not anymore,” said Pickles, speaking at the University’s London School of Hospitality and Tourism. “This is an industry worth over £3 billion to the economy and we are fully committed to supporting British talent, all the way through from our favourite local curry houses and takeaways right up to our world-leading restaurants.”
“We want to ensure employees have the right skills and that Britain remains one of the best places in the world for our chefs and managers to train. I thank Lord Noon for his generous financial support and look forward to others in the industry joining in to ensure that our young chefs get to the very top of their profession.”
The Department for Communities and local Government has worked with Noon Products Ltd and the University to develop the degree course and, in addition to learning advanced cooking techniques and management skills, scholarship students will undertake work placements at top Asian restaurants.
Kochhar, Singh, Todiwala
They will also be mentored by some of the country’s most talented chefs and restaurateurs including award-winning Atul Kochhar, Vivek Singh and Cyrus Todiwala.
Professor David Foskett, Head of the University's London School of Hospitality and Tourism, added: “This is a unique and wonderful opportunity for students who are interested in South Asian culinary arts.
“This initiative from the Secretary of State is warmly welcomed and demonstrates the government’s commitment to this important sector of the economy.
“It also underlines the emerging importance of South Asian cuisine on the global stage and the learning and career opportunities now available to students.”
Earlier in the year, BigHospitality reported that a number of leading Asian and Oriental restaurateurs had welcomed the launch of the Hospitality Guild and People 1st initiative of five new training centres to develop cuisine-specific techniques, but they warned it may not solve short-term skills shortages caused by the immigration cap.
The Government's new rules on immigration, which came into effect in April 2011, only permit skilled chefs paid at least £28k to be recruited from outside Europe and the European Economic Area (EEA).
Launching the scheme, the Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, John Hayes MP said his ambition was for British-born chefs to fill many of the roles in the Asian and Oriental restaurant sector.
Hayes was echoing comments from The Recruitment and Employment Confederation and his colleague Pickles, who has previously stated his aim for so-called 'curry colleges' to train British nationals. The Government Department for Business, Innovation and Skills awarded £1.75m to the Hospitality Guild which helped fund the initiative.