StrEAT Food Awards interview

StrEAT Food Awards interview

Why did you enter the awards?
This was my first time competing and I really wanted to prove myself against other chefs in the industry, as well as take up the challenge of actually competing. We won the award last year, so I was lucky enough to be able to speak to the previous winner, Mustafa Salimin, to get first-hand experience of the final, which inspired me to enter.

Street food is so broad, how did you decide what to cook?
We’ve adopted curry as our national dish in the UK and this was the inspiration for my dish. I wanted to create something which the vast majority of people would love to eat.

We have street food pop-ups at work, so I had the opportunity to trial my signature dish and ask diners for feedback. It received nothing but praise and when I cooked it for the Restaurant Associates culinary team they said the chicken was absolutely epic.

Tell us about your winning dish…
My signature dish of Cobra beer batter chicken chapati with triple-cooked Bombay potato fries and tomato and chilli chutney is made from ingredients readily available in workplace kitchens and works well as a food-to-go option. I initially paired my chapati with paneer fries but the cheese didn’t absorb enough flavor, so I adapted the recipe and added the Bombay potato fries which are a natural fit.

How do you stay calm when under pressure like this?
I hate being late so I always allow enough time to get anywhere. This meant I arrived 45 minutes early for the competition and had set up my station way ahead of schedule, giving me lots of time to relax.

It was also really nice to be supported by some of my Restaurant Associates colleagues, especially James O’Leary who I’ve worked with in the past and have known for eight or nine years. James has competed before, so he advised me on organising my station, warned me of any potential pitfalls and encouraged me throughout the morning.

Did you expect to win?
Not at all! I believed in my dish because I knew it was good, but the standard was very high, especially in my heat. I was up against last year’s Street Food Chef of the Year winner [Shankar Gurumurthy of Aramark], as well as an ex-colleague with a very good reputation, so I knew I would have to be at my very best to take home the trophy.

What did you think of the standard?
I was in the first heat and had to go back to work straight afterwards, but the standard in my heat alone was exceptional.

Did you enjoy the event?
I loved it and would highly recommend to anyone who is thinking about competing for the first time to go ahead and do it – you won’t regret it!

How did it feel when your name was read out?
It was a mixture of emotions, from complete shock to being overjoyed, ecstatic and immensely proud. It’s a great achievement to have won this award, especially because it was my first time competing.

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