London: Can a Polish cook ‘tarka dal´ to the right level of spice? Or, is a Bulgarian migrant here culturally sensitive enough to rustle up ‘chicken tikka masala´ widely considered Britains national dish?
No, say owners of Indian restaurants who are currently struggling to deliver orders due to severe staff shortage. New immigration rules prevent the owners from recruiting chefs from the Indian sub-continent, and many owners and consumers are facing an acute problem. The Immigration Advisory Service (IAS) says that 27,500 extra workers are required to keep the thousands of Indian restaurants in the UK working.
After the new rules were implemented earlier this year, immigration and police officers have raided several Indian restaurants, sometimes during peak business hours in the evening, and arrested people working illegally.
Calling for a halt to the raids, Keith Vaz, Goa-origin chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “There is little evidence to suggest that these raids have produced any significant evidence of illegality.
“All they seek to do is cause mayhem in restaurants costing the owners hundreds and sometimes thousands of pounds. These are not just fishing expeditions these are targeted annihilations.”
This crisis facing the 3.5-billion-pound Indian restaurant industry is scheduled to hit the streets of London today as thousands of chefs, owners and consumers stage a three-hour protest against restrictive immigration rules.
The protest has been joined by Chinese and Turkish restaurant industries, which are also facing similar staff shortage problems.
The protest has been organised by the newly formed Ethnic Catering Alliance, representing over 40,000 restaurants.
Connoisseurs of Indian cuisine believe that cooking food is a cultural process that needs the right material and cultural inputs. They believe that without years of experience and sensitivity, it cannot be performed by people outside the Indian cultural zone. But Indian restaurant owners here have been encouraged to employ Polish, Bulgarian or other migrants from the expanded European Union who do not need permits to work in Britain.