I went to Coriander in Hatch End in December 2016 and got to meet, albeit briefly, Salim Chowdhury the owner. Here is someone who has turned his passion into a successful business, feeding me.
Good but tough work.
See my interview with him below, where we discussed inspiration, the "curry crisis" affecting restaurants in the UK and the future of Bangladeshi cuisine.
Educated and qualified in Business Management, Salim currently owns three very popular high street restaurants in Harrow, north-west London: Jaflong, Curry Mahal and Coriander, the latter in the upmarket enclave of Hatch End, Harrow and which recently won the national ‘Best Restaurant’ category award in the UKBCCI (UK Bangladesh Catalysts of Commerce & Industry) Business & Entrepreneur Excellence Awards 2016.
Previously, Coriander had won Newcomer of the Year (Asian Curry Awards 2013), Restaurant of the Year 2013 & 2014 (Harrow Times) and Pat Chapman’s Curry Club Certificate of Excellence for ‘Best in Middlesex’ 2016. Coriander has also been a finalist at the prestigious British Curry Awards in 2013, 2014, and 2016.
I think you have a number of things coming together. In the case of Indian restaurants, there is a cultural change in the Bangladeshi community, there are more young people going to university as well as a whole range of different professions than ever before, but that means there are less people considering a career in restaurants. They don’t want to slog out the long hours and various other things which are associated with the restaurant sector.
What steps can restaurants and the government to do help with this crisis?
I think restaurant owners need to talk about what a good career working in restaurants can be because it can be tremendously rewarding. In the case of the government, Brexit may well present an opportunity that has not been available. A cut in immigration from Eastern Europe for example, may give them a more sensible perspective by allowing work permits from hard working staff originating from Bangladesh.
When did you get a passion for food?
I grew up with food because my father was a restaurateur, so food has always been a part of my life. Growing up in that world, I’ve both learnt and enjoyed the process of running a restaurant business, particularly dealing with customers and giving them a first class experience with great food.
Where would you like to see Bangladeshi cuisine in five years?
I would like to see people realise the diversity of Bangladeshi food, in that it is not just about 'going for a curry' on a Friday night, but that there is a variety of different eating experiences within the cuisine. I think there is a space for a variety of Bangladeshi food, from fine dining to the more traditional Indian food experience, which the public have yet to experience and it is up to us restaurateurs to offer them that.
I really like the name coriander
It suites our tag line - "Garnished with Passion"…
Which are your 5 favourite restaurants in London?
I have no one restaurant in particular that I like but more about what mood I’m in and the type of cuisine my family and I might want to eat. London is so diverse nowadays and it’s great that you get to eat so many eclectic foods from across the world.
Basically: Step up UK and future foodies. Restaurants need you, I need you. Hard work will lead to rewards, don't let the grind put you off.