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Persian Restaurant Shrewsbury Awards

A former Shropshire surgeon who swapped his doctor’s coat for chef’s whites this week traveled to the UK’s curry capital to compete alongside Britain’s best.

Dr Lal Haider, the chef-patron of Old Hall Restaurant, a Persian Eaterie at Dorrington, near Shrewsbury, was nominated for the prestigious United Kingdom South Asian Chef of the Year Award.

He was joined by eight other hopefuls at the Bradford International College after securing his place in the final. Dr Haider was asked to cook four dishes and he was judged accordingly for his creativity, design and flavour – up against some top UK chefs.

Dr Haider, who has previously reached the final of the South Asian Chef of the Year, has twice won a place in the final of the Shropshire Curry Chef of the Year contest.

He said: “The competition was tough this year, with chefs from all over the UK. It was a real privilege to be included in such esteem company, and I have learnt a great deal – including how to use a ‘conduction cooker’ which I have never come across before – they really are unique and can be a real challenge to an Asian Chef like me, who is used to cooking on open flame”

“My dishes were praised by judges, especially for their flavour and attention to detail on the ingredients, which I was delighted to hear – many of the chefs I was up against had been professional chefs for many years, so being self-taught and only cooking for relatively a few years, was a real eye opener for me. I look forward to being back again next year.”

Dr Haider cooked dishes from his current menus, including a Healthy Fish Dish, an Innovative Chicken dish, a vegetable dish, and a specialty starter called Kotlet, which is based on potato and aubergine.

Dr Haider fulfilled a lifetime’s ambition by becoming a chef, after deciding to leave his career as a general and coloretal surgeon. He said: “I always dreamed of being a chef, but I followed a medical career. I reached a point where I decided it was time to follow my heart and cook.

“I’ve had great support from the people of Dorrington, Shrewsbury and further afield during recent years and I have no regrets about swapping the hospital for my kitchen.

Enthusiastic: “There are not many people in life who get to do the thing they love for a living, and cooking has always been my passion. I am very enthusiastic about Persian cuisine and it’s been great fun these past few years to bring those flavours to Shropshire.”

The gastronomy of Asia is particularly well represented in Shropshire with numerous restaurants specialising in Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani food. Nevertheless, Dr Haider’s Old Hall Restaurant is the only one to specialise in Persian food – one of the most ancient cuisines on the planet!

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