‘Curry Crisis’ campaign

Lesley Laird MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath has pledged support to a campaign which aims to stem Scotland’s ‘curry crisis’.

She met dozens of restaurateurs who gathered at Shimla Palace in Cowdenbeath to discuss a skilled chef shortage across Scotland’s Asian restaurant sector.

Addressing the audience, comprising around 70 people, campaign leader Hans Raj Ram, CEO of recruitment company Goldstar Chefs, warned a third of 4000 curryhouses across the UK were in danger of closing.

Restaurant owners stated a lack of skilled chefs in the UK left them with no choice but to recruit outwith the EU.

A crisis was being fuelled, however, by Home Office rules which stated skilled non-EU chefs were required to be paid a prohibitively high salary of around £30k per annum.

In addition, a clause in shortage occupation rules prevented professional non-EU chefs working in UK restaurants which offer take-away, buffet or banqueting services.

Lesley Laird said: “I heard today that restaurateurs across the country are over-worked and more likely to suffer physical and mental health problems by trying to run their business with too few staff.

“The Migration Advisory Committee, which established these rules in 2011, is currently reviewing evidence raised today.

“This is clearly a live debate and the window to effect a change will rely upon the concerted approach of restaurateurs, customers and the supply chain.

“This is a skills issue which is resulting in the closure of many curry houses up and down the country and if not resolved quickly will result in many more closing their doors.”

Fife Council Economy spokesperson Cllr Altany Craik said: “These curry houses are part and parcel of our local communities.

“Fife Council employability service will reach out to support businesses in the short term but in the longer term a change to the Home Office rules are required if we are to prevent curry houses from closing on our High Streets.”

Lesley Laird, Altany Craik and other delegates were given a chef demonstration at Shimla Palace and an opportunity to sample the dishes afterwards.

Thanking Shimla Palace owner Kashmiram Bhandari for his hospitality, Lesley said: “The food was delicious, amply illustrating the skill and experience needed to create complex Asian cuisine.

“The choice to become a chef is often a vocational one and a lifestyle one because of the long, unsociable hours. And let’s not forget: if a restaurant serves up fantastic food, customers return, the business grows and the economy benefits as a result.”