It’s hard to know what to think after the prime minister suggested that the visa quota for Asian chefs be increased. It appears that there may be a curry chef shortage in the UK. Other possibilities include:
1. Cameron likes Asian cuisine.
2. This is a tit-for-tat trade agreement where the UK sends chippie chefs to Saigon and the Afghanistani Silk Road.
3. The days of the traditional English stewed faggot are numbered and a substitute such as curry chicken must be found.
Although the news was late in coming, it’s now known that David Cameron attended the British Curry Awards as guest of honour at the Battersea Evolution centre on 26th November 2013. For those keeping score, Battersea Evolution is a convention centre that offers a 4,000 sq.m starcloth ceiling called “Chamelion,” laser shows and modern-day jousting in dodgem cars.
Anyway, Cameron publicly admitted that the visa requirements for Asian chefs was seriously problematic for everyone in the Asian food sector. He then pronounced himself to be “flexible.” It’s not known whether the long-awaited message was decreed from a dodgem car. Cameron said: “Let me promise you this – we will work through this together. We will continue to get you the skilled Asian chefs that you need and we will also work with you to train up the next generation of home-grown chefs.”
Political analysts immediately agreed with the importance of this announcement, noting that curry is a £3.6 billion industry in the UK that employees 80,000 people. Curry became big business in the UK after immigrants packed their bags and departed the Indian subcontinent in the middle of the 20th century. Many Indians set up restaurants in the UK, offering poor people a place to dine out.
With the Benares curry restaurant in London offering a bottle of Bruno Menard Pauillac wine at £649 a pop, Indian restaurants clearly offer more than cheap curry these days. However, as is the case with immigrant assimilation, the children of these pioneer curry restaurant owners mostly rejected the Asian curry way and didn’t follow in their parent’s curry footsteps. Thus was born the Asian chef shortage and a visit by the prime minister to fix the curry problem.
Back in 2010, British curry lovers quickly assigned fault to the shortage of Asian chefs on a UK immigrant crackdown. This severe strangling of the curry sector by UK immigrant officers prevented Asian chefs from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka from emigrating to the curry parts of the UK.
In 2012, Keith Vaz MP, who chaired the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, warned the UK that insidious rules in the Tier 2 skilled worker visa hindered the entrance of Indian curry chefs into Britain. Vaz suggested that changes to the Tier 2 requirements, including lowering the minimum annual wage for Asian chefs to less than £30,000, was necessary to open the UK gates to curry chefs. Vaz complained that the minimum annual stipend was too high and caused Indian restaurants to suffer.
Alas, despite all the pontifications by the prime minister and a love for curry shown by all at the attendees in dodgem cars under the Chamelion starcloth ceiling, the matter apparently remains in political limbo.
The politicians will need to slog through the Tier 2 immigration swamp to try to hammer out a new four-year chef visa. This Asian chef exception rule would allow Indian restaurants to fish out promising curry chefs from the Indian subcontinent and get them cooking over the flatbread curry grill for less than £30,000 per year.
Cameron cautioned the Curry Award guests that the unfortunate paucity of curry chefs throughout the UK realm would not be solved in a fortnight. This matter, he said, would require that all sides commit to a solution for the long term, and he expects that typical British forbearance will shine through to solve this curry chef crisis.