England Is Running Out of Curry Chefs

The national dish.
The national dish. Photo: Diana Miller/Corbis

In Britain, about 1 in every 530 people works at a curry house, which is the insane number apparently necessary to satisfy the national demand for steady supplies of tikka masala. But that demand brings serious staffing issues, and the curry industry warns big trouble is coming, thanks to England’s strict immigration policies: A third of the U.K.’s 12,500 curry houses are reportedly in danger of closing because they can’t find chefs.

From the Times:

The first generation of curry chefs who opened restaurants in the 1960s were mostly from East Pakistan, what is now Bangladesh, and are now retiring, but they cannot find cooks to replace them, [the secretary general of the British Bangladeshi Caterer Association] said. Younger, better-educated and more assimilated British Asians are reluctant to take on the family business because of the grueling hours and low pay.

Indian restaurants are changing, too. Customers are increasingly demanding authentic fare that reflects India’s culinary diversity and sophistication, a trend also seen with the rising number of Michelin-starred Indian restaurants. But Indian cooks trained in Britain are few and far between, and chefs say it takes at least seven years to train one properly.

The potential shortage is so serious that Parliament’s curry committee (yes, that exists) just suggested the idea of Britain leaving the EU. The group says it’d free struggling family-run Indian joints from paying entry-level workers the high EU-mandated £29,570 per year, which is £5,000 above the average wage industrywide, and give the country “more flexibility to control our borders.” The need for help in kitchens is real, and clearly, they add, it would be impractical to “expect our curry to be cooked in Delhi and flown over.”


England Is Running Out of Curry Chefs