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Shropshires Best Curry House

Shropshire's Curry Chef Awards were held at Radbrook Catering college in Shrewsbury, amongst hot competition.

Held last year for the first time when the winner was Abdul Husen of Café Saffron. This year the competition was even more competitive, with the bar raised on quality and range of cooking styles.The  four finalists were: Oswestry Tandoori, Dorrington Old Hall Persian Restaurant, Mahim Indian Takeaway in Bayston Hill and last years winner, Café Saffron Indian Restaurant in Shrewsbury.

The competition judges were: Councillor Ann Hartley, Shropshire Council Deputy Leader; Bruce McMichael, Editor of Taste Living; James Day of the Gourmet Life Dining Club and editor of food weblog and Sean McNulty, senior chef lecturer at Radbrook College.

Conditions were strict. Each chef had to choose their cooking station at random, then they were given some time to prepare their ingredients, however no cooking was permitted. One hour was then allocated for them all toreate their chosen dishes. Each chef was to produce their best curry, side dish and rice accompaniment, as well as demonstrating high standards of food hygiene in their premises and catering practices, prior to the finals. While each prepared, the judges looked on noting their kitchen and prep skills, as well as hygiene throughout. Fellow judge Bruce McMichael commented "These guys are amongst the best in the region, and judging by what I can see in the preparation, the skill levels are very high and the competition fierce".

Once all the dishes were ready and the time called, all were asked to leave the room, except the hand picked judges. Deliberations began. Each dish was marked out of 10 for appearance, aroma, texture and flavour. Then totals were tallied, and the highest score, the winner. However, not all was that simple. There were ties and debate began, based on the criteria, the outcomes, and of course, professional opinions. The allotted 45 minutes summing up, was extended to an hour, then an hour and a half. Finally, a winner was chosen based on the initial competition criteria of 'Best Chef' rather than any other factors which were duly debated. The worthy winner was Oswestry Tandoori who proudly now carries the title of Shropshire Council Curry Chef of the Year 2011.

Councillor Ann Hartley, deputy of Shropshire Council commented "well, that was a surprise. So tight, and exciting, we did nt know which ways the outcome was going to go, we even had to call in some independent adjudicators. In the end, the best dish won, and we are pleased the competition was such a success for the finalists, and to raise awareness of the high standards of cuisine in Shropshire"

After the judging was announced, live on BBC radio Shropshire, Judge James Day commented "It was a tough call. When the scores were so close, we had to go down to technicalities on the criteria for judging. It was tough as we could clearly see they had all worked very hard, but at the end of the day, flavour prevailed." adding "Last years worthy winner, Cafe Saffron, pushed the boat out even further with a slow roast pumpkin with Shropshire chicken beautifully cooked, accompanied by lemon rice and a mushroom and onion skillet. Whereas the Persian restaurant wowed us with depth of flavour and the use of fragrant dried fruits in their rice including dates, sultanas and lemon zest,with a light battered Persian fish as a side, but this was not the overall favourite. However, simplicity prevailed with a side of onion bhajees and a light refreshing mint yogurt, and  Chicken Jalfrezi. I have to agree the flavours were simple, but effective. I can recommend a visit to any of the venues, and I will certainly be visting, which highlights the diversity of Shropshire cuisine. I cant wait until next year"

Shropshire Curry Chef of the Year: Mahim Indian Takeaway in Bayston Hill
Shropshire Curry Chef of the Year: Oswestry Tandoori
Curry Chef of the Year judging, tough competition
Curry Chef of the Year judging, tough competition

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