Time for Awards to Come Clean?

April 21, 2015 No Comments

Pressure grows on Asian Curry Awards to explain its position.

Last year marked the 10th British Curry Awards, which you should know (in the interests of full disclosure) has an affiliation with this magazine, though it does mean that our industry awards ceremonies are something that we care about at Spice Magazine deeply. In that time the British Curry Awards has established itself as a globally respected brand, raising the profile of the British curry industry onto an international stage. At the time it was founded it was a pioneer in terms of curry awards. Now there are a plethora of awards out there, all trying to emulate its success; some national others regionally. And while a number of them have merit, in this author’s opinion others are of dubious pedigree, aimed simply at making money and promoting the interests of certain groups or individuals.

The spotlight has recently fallen on the Asian Curry Awards, with one blog site, authored by ‘Alan Stark’, claiming to expose the Awards as a sham. The blog alleges that, “The Asian Curry Awards is an organisation deep rooted with corruption. Members and organisers are lining their own pockets with publicity and awards.” The blog also contends that there are no judging criteria, the awards are badly organised and not fit for purpose and that they are damaging the entire Indian restaurant industry, though we are unable to ascertain whether the blog has obtained this from a reliable source – or not.

As well as alleging that leading members of the Federation of Bangladeshi Caterers (FOBC), which runs the Asian Curry Awards, have themselves been named winners, against ‘ethical’ best practice, the blog also alleges that contestants were contacted by the Asian Curry Awards team to say that if they booked a table for the awards they would win. The blog also points out that one restaurant won the “Takeaway of the Year” award, despite having only a 1 star rating for food hygiene, and that a judging panel quit in protest at the way the awards were decided. The blogger asks, “How can an establishment with major food hygiene issues win such a title? Surely it is one of the criteria that a credible awards organisation would check”.
The allegations have been challenged by Yawar Khan, Chairman of the FOBC, who has threatened the blogger with legal action. Spice Business has not been able to verify whether or not any of the allegations are true. However the allegations themselves are clearly damaging to the industry.

The author considers that it is worrying that, at the time of writing, the Asian Curry Awards has not publicly sought to rebut the allegations by holding a press conference, in order to correct the misperception that may otherwise occur. In the absence of any official comment from the organisation, people in the industry might come to an adverse conclusion, which may be unfair.

It is important that the Asian Curry Awards act swiftly to clarify the situation, ideally responding to the allegations correcting them point by point. If it does not, in the author’s opinion the industry as a whole will be damaged, as it will create doubt in the minds of the public and sponsors, who will no longer wish to support other awards, thereby depriving the business of the value that they can add.

Awards tend to create controversy by their nature. Sometimes this is ‘sour grapes’ on the part of losing entrants. However transparency is the best policy and can allow any unfair accusations to be challenged.

Imam Uddin, President of the Guild of Bangladeshi Restaurateurs (Staffordshire region), says, “Certainly with the recent ugly publicity the industry’s reputation has been discoloured. We will do our best to ensure that our members do not get involved in proceedings which are not transparent and where there is suspicion of manipulation for personal gain. We welcome positive contributions from individuals and organisations that elevate the industry and deplore acts which may bring the industry into disrepute.”

Parvez Ahmed, Chairman of New Generation 2000 and a member of the Bangladeshi Caterers Association, says he is personally aware of awards organisers pleading directly with restaurants to buy tables in return for winning awards. “This is absolutely unacceptable and unethical,” he says. “Also more and more new awards and organisations are being created and credibility is dissipating fast. This is damaging our community and our respected industry.”

Shahagir Bakth Faruk, M.Sc, FRSPH, Fmr President, British-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Freeman of the City of London added: “For the sake of upholding the honour, respect and hard work of an individual and to protect the dignity and reputation of any organisation or association’s image, one must refrain from such bad practice of copycat for his financial or personal gain. Only then you can inspire others to come up with new ideas, new innovation for the industry development and growth.”

The ball is back in the Asian Curry Awards court. It is up to them now to clear up the confusion caused by these allegations. The blogger concluded, that they should be ‘dismantled to prevent further damage.’ – and if what he is claiming is true then it would be hard to disagree with the sentiment.

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