From education to employment

Grandfather chef inspiring next generation

Grandfather chef inspiring next generation

A chef has been selected to take part in an international competition following a successful cook-off against talent from around the country.

Najib Ali, who works at Maya restaurant in Atherstone, Warwickshire, will compete in The International Bangladeshi MasterChef (IBM).

The 51-year-old grandfather will represent the UK with four other chefs to at the prestigious event in Bangladesh.

Learning from the next generation

And Najib, who was born in the South Asian country and moved to the UK at the age of six, said he both learns from the next generation – and hopes to pass on his skills to them.

He said: “I love competing as it’s a way to develop and learn how the industry is evolving. It’s an opportunity to pass on skills and knowledge to the next generation, as well as learn new styles from up-and-coming chefs.

“It’s possible to travel around the world in this industry and see how others showcase their work. I feel passionate about this sector and its opportunities.”

The cook-off was held at Northampton College and chefs had to create and make two dishes each within two hours, which were then judged by blind tasting by the Craft Guild of Chefs.

Encouraging young chefs

Northampton businessman and chef, Muhammad Ali, collaborated with the college to host the competition.

It is hoped to encourage young chefs to go into the sector – emphasising the importance of students learning about different cuisines – no matter their background.

The judges complimented Najib on his salmon with moilee sauce starter and duck and asparagus main, which combined Asian flavours with Western-style presentation.

Najib  said: “I like to experiment and combine eastern and western influence – some things work, some things don’t. When it turns out well then it goes onto the menu.”

Selected chefs attend the Grand Sylhet Hotel in Bangladesh to compete against South Asia’s finest chefs.

Reducing single-use plastic

Najib was previously crowned winner of the Asian & Oriental Chef Awards following a live cook-off and also won a gold medal in the Culinary World Cup as part of a team from UK Curry Connect (UKCC) campaign group, set up to raise awareness of skills shortages in the Asian catering industry.

The team also promoted charity Projects Against Plastic (PAP) – to reduce single-use plastic in the catering industry – with their showstopper Plastic or Planet.

The showstopper Plastic or Planet aimed to highlight the current threat to the environment at the Culinary World Cup.

Najib Ali and the team at the Culinary World Cup.

Najib and the team at Maya have worked with PAP and believe it is important to reduce single-use plastic in the industry.

From the courtroom to the kitchen – finding his vocation.

Najib, who first helped out in restaurants as a teenager, originally trained to be a lawyer. But he said his passion was cooking and he has no regrets about his career choice.

He said: “My friends and classmates went on to become lawyers and barristers, but I love what I do and would not want to do anything else.”

Najib, who was born in Sylhet, a city in north eastern Bangladesh, and grew up in Lozells, Birmingham, is looking forward to returning for the event to visit friends and family.

Owner Kamal Miah, who is third generation in the restaurant industry, said: “Najib is a fantastic chef and it is great that he is getting the recognition that he deserves.

“We consider ourselves lucky to have such talent in our kitchen here at Maya. Najib is continually developing and is an asset and inspiration to our team.”

Charity and community

Halal restaurant Maya regularly supports its community and local charities. It supplied food to key workers during the pandemic as part of the Food4NHS project.

The team received an award from the High Sheriff and deputy lord lieutenant of Warwickshire Joe Greenwell.

And they also raised hundreds of pounds for an Armed Forces charity when they took part in British Curry Day – donating £1 for every Tikka Masala sold.

Money was given to Veterans’ Contact Point (VCP), which was nominated by North Warwickshire’s MP Craig Tracey.

Related Articles