A restaurant in Atherstone is commemorating the forefathers who introduced millions of Britons to a taste of the subcontinent – while raising money for a veterans’ charity.
British Curry Day has been launched to mark those who came to Britain from the 1960s – opening restaurants and takeaways – and to show support for the industry today.
And Maya in Sheepy Road will donate £1 to Veterans Contact Point (VCP) – as nominated by North Warwickshire’s MP Craig Tracey – for every Tikka Masala sold on Wednesday, December 1.
Kamal Miah, who runs Maya restaurant and is third generation in the industry, said: “We want to celebrate our forefathers who had the resilience to set up what is now a billion-pound industry.
“Many families have benefited from the trade – either by working in the industry or having the opportunity to pursue other vocations – be it medicine, engineering or law – as a result.
“I believe it’s important to help those in need and this is very much a team effort.”
Kamal, 47, who arrived in the UK from Bangladesh at the age of six, grew up in Lozells and ran his first restaurant at the age of 19.
The former St Francis pupil soon learnt English and adapted to a new way of life. His father worked two jobs – in a factory and at a restaurant, his grandfather opened a restaurant in Sparkhill, and his elder brother and uncle were also in the industry.
Father-of-six Kamal, who started helping out in the kitchen at the age of 14, said: “The restaurant life is in my blood. I knew I would work in the trade – unless I became a famous footballer.”
Kamal, whose maternal grandfather was in the British navy (HMS Cambridge), said he grew up with the ‘best of both worlds’ combining both cultures.
He added: “I believe people of my generation have created variations of the traditional curry and added a modern twist.”
But the industry has faced its share of challenges, particularly following the pandemic.
Kamal, who set up a takeaway in Nuneaton during the pandemic, has also struggled to get staff due to work permit issues.
He said: “It’s been a challenging time – from dealing with lockdowns, cancellations due to Covid, difficulties getting supplies and staffing issues.
“But we have very supportive customers. We’re still open. We’re still trading. We’re still in good health. We’re grateful.”
UK Curry Connect (UKCC) is a campaign group which has been set up to raise awareness of skills shortages in the Asian catering industry.
Naseem,UKCC director for social responsibility and sustainability, said: “The industry has changed dramatically over the last 60 years and we have to find ways to continue to be sustainable.”
British Curry Day coincides with 50 years of independence for Bangladesh and it is a national holiday in the country on December 16.
And the event will raise money for Atherstone and Dordon Veterans Contact Point (VCP), as chosen by Mr Tracey.
The centres are run by military veterans for veterans who live in the Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire (CSW) Area.
Mr Tracey said he was delighted to support British Curry Day and VCP with Maya, who were also part of the Food4NHS project – delivering meals to frontline workers.
He said: “British Curry is full of cultural integration and the heritage built over the past few decades has helped in establishing it as the nation’s favourite dish.
“It has been fascinating to learn more about the Bangladeshi heritage and both the story of their curry pioneers, along with the importance placed on looking after their community -which is very much reflected in their generosity supporting the VCP.
“I would also like to pass on my congratulation to the Bangladeshi community on this, their 50th year of independence.”
Kamal, who received an award for community support from the High Sheriff and deputy lord lieutenant of Warwickshire Joe Greenwell, said: “It’s been a difficult time for many people. I’ve lost friends due to Covid and know many have struggled.”
Tam Webster, peer support lead with Armed Forces charity Veterans Contact Point, said: “We are delighted that British Curry Day, which marks the nation’s favourite dish and links with Bangladeshi independence, will support our charity. This will help us to continue to develop our services to veterans.”