A NEPALESE chef from Midlothian, who had barely cooked before moving to the UK, has been named best in the country.
Ashok Ram took the award for top chef at the Scottish Curry Awards in Glasgow.
Mr Ram moved to the UK in 1999 and was mentored by top Bangladeshi chef Matin Khan, a previous curry chef of the year winner.
He worked his way up to head chef of Radhuni in Loanhead and its sister restaurant Itihaas.
He is also chief executive of the business.
The 53-year-old said he was thrilled by the accolade.
He said: “I’m delighted that the work of myself and the Radhuni team has been recognised. We try to make each dish a unique experience for the customer.”
Habibur Khan, the son of the chef’s mentor, is the manager of Radhuni. He said that when Mr Ram started working with Matin he had no experience as a chef. “He has worked with us since the day he came to the UK, we’ve trained him up to where he needed to be. He’s been overseas to find out more about food,” he said.
Mr Khan believes that the key to the restaurant’s success is the chefs’ evolving approach to food
He said: “The only thing you can change is flavour and spices. You can’t change too much of the ingredients or its not traditional.
“You can only bring out the natural flavour
“Cooking is like a picture you’ve got you colours, your pallet. In cooking you’ve got spices its and ingredients, its an art.
“Ashok and his colleagues have adapted to trends and kept learning more about spices and modern styles of cooking while using only the best and most authentic ingredients.”
Radhuni opened in 2011 and was Loanhead’s first Indian style restaurant. Its name means “passionate cook” in Bengali.
Mr Khan said that the success had been achieved despite the UK government’s tough immigration policy, which he says makes it difficult for restaurants to get visas for staff from the Indian subcontinent.
“The UK government is shabbily treating an industry worth more than £4 billion to the country’s economy each year,” he said.
Despite his frustration at the handling of the industry, he was still delighted at the award.
He said: “It means a lot for us being able to win, this is crazy I’m lost for words, its just amazing being recognised for the work we do and for Ashok to be recognised”
At the same awards, a takeaway on Ferry Road scooped the award for best takeaway in the Scottish south-east.
Muhammed Alam from the business said that they had missed out on the award in 2016 and 2017 which made them more determined to take the prize this year.
“We have the best food, fresh ingredients, fresh meat and local produce and do our best to give customers what they need get the food as soon as possible to get repeat customers,” he said. “We want our customers to come back so we keep the level of service high.”