It all started when Askir Ali, owner of SAFA, decided the time had come to create a specialist Asian awards scheme to recognise the contribution made to Ireland’s food scene by hundreds of Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani and other Asian chefs, restaurant workers and managers. Askir Ali was born in Manchester but his food roots are in Bangladesh. He spent five years in Manchester where he trained under a master chef at Assam Gourmet. In 1990, he moved to Northern Ireland where he has worked at some of the top restaurants in Belfast before opening SAFA. He is currently working on an new exciting project that will be launched in late 2017.
A stickler for traditional methods, Askir’s spices are freshly ground – but the presentation and décor are very contemporary.
He founded the Irish Curry Awards because he feels that “Indian restaurants are not recognised in Ireland as they should be, even though they contribute equally to food service in the country”. “Some small organisations do want to recognise us, but at a cost. I want the awards to be free. I have secured funding from suppliers to deliver to Indian kitchens every working day – both large and small. “After expenses, all proceeds will go to charity. These awards are about recognising the best of the best and giving them the credit they deserve.”
Paul is a Judge in the British and Irish Great Taste Awards, a Judge in the Hotel and Restaurant Gold Medal Awards, Publicist, hospitality consultant and event manager. He has worked extensively with many Irish Food Producers to promote their product and has worked with many food festivals particularly The Savour Kilkenny Food Festival for several years. He has presented radio shows that have a focus on food and is a regular contributor to discussions on food on many radio stations in Ireland. Paul has a large online following on social media in particular in the food community. He owns Farmhill restaurant in Goatstown, Dublin and absolutely loves curries!
Joris Minne has been writing a food column every week in the Belfast Telegraph for 10 years. He has reviewed 520 restaurants in that time. His background is in journalism. He trained at National Geographic in Washington DC in the 1980s, joined London publishing giant IPC Magazines and moved to Madrid in 1990 where he was a researcher for Time, Sports Illustrated and Irish Times correspondents.
He has been a director of leading Belfast PR agency Jcomms since 2001. He is devoted to his adopted city of Belfast having chaired the MAC arts centre through funding and eventual construction. He is a director of Women in Business and a contributor to BBC Northern Ireland current affairs and magazine programmes. He chairs the judging panel of the Hospitality Ulster Top 100 and is a member of the Restaurants Association of Ireland Academy of Judges.
The Irish Curry Awards, in association with Cobra Beer, UTIS Holdings and BJ Productions, took place last year at the Crowne Plaza, Shaw’s Bridge, on Tuesday 24 October 2017, and celebrated the best restaurants and curries on the island of Ireland, for a second year.
An estimated 700 curry houses operate successfully between Ballyferriter in Kerry and Ballycastle in Antrim. These awards were created by Belfast-based restaurateur Askir Ali to recognise the contribution made to Ireland’s food scene by hundreds of Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani and other Asian chefs, restaurant workers and managers.
Speaking on the success of the event, Founder Askir Ali said: “Curry may have been born in India, but it has grown and matured across Ireland. The Irish Curry Awards are recognition of that.
“I was really surprised and thrilled to see the level of support that was out there for the Irish Curry Awards and I am delighted that year two has been just as successful as the first. Nominations were up this year and the standard was too. We had in place a broad mix of judges and food critics onboard again this year.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank all our judges for taking time out of the busy schedules to be part of the Irish Curry Awards; to all our supporters that have helped make this year’s awards possible and to all the restaurants that took part. Congratulations to all this year’s winners.”
UTV’s own Pamela Ballentine oversaw hosting duties for the glamorous event, allocating awards which covered a wide range of categories including Best Chef, Best Restaurant and Best Newcomer, among others. Asian restaurants had more opportunity than ever to win, as new categories were introduced this year including Best South Asian Restaurant and Best Romantic Restaurant. The judges, made up of esteemed food critics and journalists, had the enviable job of testing out the delicious food to decide who would triumph on the night.
Guests from across the industry and media were treated to a tremendous evening celebrating Asian culture in Ireland, with entertainment in the form of Bollywood dancing from the talented BJ Production team. The Irish Curry Awards is a not-for-profit event with all profits and money raised donated to the event’s official charity Children’s Heartbeat Trust. The charity delivers emotional and practical support to children and young people with heart disease in Northern Ireland and their families.
Plans have already been put in place for next year’s event which will mark the third year of the Irish Curry Awards. These awards were supported by BJ Productions, UTIS Holdings, Asian Restaurateur, Hospitality Ulster, Cobra Beer, Coca Cola, AJ Stuart, Hugh Jordan, Glenisk and Order on Chef.