South Shore restaurant owner wins 'chef of the year' in two national curry competitions
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Mohammed Iftekher Hussain, 47, owner of the Baby Kingfisher Indian restaurant on Highfield Road, was awarded the top spot in both the Asian Curry Awards in Manchester and the National Curry Association competition at the House of Lords in London this month.
He rose above the competition with his chicken pakora and onion bhajis following by shahi masala and jalfrezi dishes.
"It was a lot of pressure. It was the first time in a few years I have done something like this and the last time I did I was there as a helper," he said. "We were up against some real giants there, so I was over the moon. Some of the restaurants there were from as far afield as Northern Ireland and London, and of course Bradford, which is well known as the curry capital of Britain."
Iftekher, who started cooking 35 years ago, won 'Chef of the Year' at the Asian Curry Awards at the Mercure Manchester Piccadilly Hotel on August 31 one week after presenting his dishes to a panel of judges.
In another competition on September 15, he won the National Curry Association's 'Chef of the Year' award at a grand ceremony at the House of Lords in London.
He said: "I have literally grown up cooking. I've worked with some great chefs over the years. I've worked in some odd places, and some prestigious places. Going back 20 years I worked for the Shimla group, which operates in London, Birmingham, Coventry, Edingburgh, Glasgow and Leeds. Other places I have worked just alone, myself in the kitchen.
"Working in Blackpool is almost like working in a village atmosphere. Everybody knows everybody. We're very familiar with our customers, which can be a double-edged sword at times. If you do something right, everybody knows about it - if you do something wrong, everybody knows about it. It's a very tight-knit community."
To celebrate his success at the two awards ceremonies, Iftekher is now planning a special event at his restaurant, to be attended by local politicians who missed out on a taste of his award-winning food at the House of Lords.
He said: "We are only a small restaurant, so we entered the competition as the underdogs, going up against some big groups. To manage to win Chef of the Year - I'm absolutely delighted."