So despite the pandemic, the team at the British Curry Awards made a great effort last week to make sure 2020 did not pass without recognising some great individuals and businesses in the wonderful (still) world of curry.
In the 16th running of this annual awards ceremony, which I have been able to attend twice, the event was live streamed via YouTube and hosted by BCA stalwart, comedian Rory Bremner.
We were glad to see that the ceremony paid tribute to the unsung heroes of the pandemic, those who have gone the extra mile for their local communities; the country’s first-generation curry restaurateurs who are now elderly with underlying health issues and as well as the early ‘curry pioneers’ who created the industry we know and love today in the 1960s and 1970s.
One advantage of this method of presentation, and probably the only one because the live event is much more fun, is you can watch the whole event again on YouTube and we’ve added the link below.
New analysis by the British Curry Awards and industry trade journal Spice Business Magazine found UK curry houses have given away more than five million free meals to key workers and the vulnerable during the course of the coronavirus pandemic.
The average cost of a curry with rice is around £9. This means the industry has donated more than £45m in food to key workers, including frontline NHS staff and the needy, since the first lockdown in March.
This generosity has taken place despite the acute economic pressure on curry houses and the wider hospitality industry throughout the crisis. The curry industry was already struggling with a skills shortage, which was contributing an alarming rate of restaurant closures pre-Covid.
A recent documentary, The Curry House Kid, estimated that half of all the country’s 12,000 Indian restaurants could close in the next decade.
Andrew Kenny, the UK managing director of British Curry Awards sponsor Just Eat, said:
“It’s been a very challenging year for the hospitality sector and we are so proud to help celebrate the exceptional people within our industry who have been working tirelessly throughout, not just by feeding the nation but providing so much vital support to their local communities.”
Enam Ali MBE, founder of the British Curry Awards, said:
“I am delighted that we have been able to keep the Curry Oscars going even through this traumatic time. The winners this year are among the most exceptional we have known, feeding our friends, loved ones, and those who have defended us throughout this awful pandemic.
“More broadly, it’s extraordinary how the whole industry has kept so many people fed this year. The great British curry is not only central to British life, it is a key part of seeing us through this pandemic. As an industry worth around £5bn, we also have a crucial role to play in the recovery.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
“We are all experiencing very challenging times in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly for the UK restaurant industry. It is therefore heartening and fitting that the theme for this year’s event is to reward and celebrate all the unsung heroes in the restaurant industry during the pandemic.”
“They have selflessly, tirelessly, and, without prompting, gone out of their way to help their local community, the vulnerable, elderly, isolated, and the NHS by supplying much wanted curries, kindness, and support.”
Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said:
“It has been an extremely difficult year for curry restaurants who have faced immense challenges as a result of the Covid pandemic. Restaurateurs and their staff have shown extraordinary resilience and worked tirelessly to adapt and provide a safe environment for their customers whilst continuing
to deliver excellent service through – out these uncertain times. Yet despite these difficult times, it is heartwarming that many restaurateurs have gone out of their way to provide a vital helping hand to those in need during the pandemic.”
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said:
“We all know that is has been a tough year for the hospitality industry, which makes the industry’s efforts and the support they have given to our communities all the more impressive.
“Robin Cook famously declared chicken tikka masala to be ‘a true national dish’. He was right about that, but I must admit I prefer a chicken Balti. There is no doubt that the curry house is absolutely integral to British life, never more so than this year.”
We hope and pray that next year’s event will be celebrating the recovery of this great industry and once again doing so together with friends, colleagues and family.