A grandfather from Atherstone has been selected to take part in an international competition following a successful cook-off against talent from around the country.
Najib Ali, a chef at Maya restaurant in Sheepy Road, will compete in The International Bangladeshi MasterChef (IBM).
The 51-year-old will travel to Bangladesh with four other chefs to represent the UK in the prestigious event.
Najib, who was born in Sylhet and moved to the UK at the age of six, 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.”
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.
Selected chefs will now go to the Grand Sylhet Hotel in Bangladesh to compete against South Asia’s finest chefs.
Najib, who was previously crowned winner of the Asian & Oriental Chef Awards following a live cook-off, said: “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 judges complimented Najib on his salmon with moilee sauce starter and duck and asparagus main, which combined Asian flavours with Western-style presentation.
Najib also won a gold medal in the Culinary World Cup as part of a team from UK Curry Connect campaign group, set up to raise awareness of skills shortages in the Asian catering industry.
The team also promoted charity Projects Against Plastic – to reduce single-use plastic in the catering industry – with their showstopper Plastic or Planet.
He 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.”
From the courtroom to the kitchen
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.”
Najiba is looking forward to returning for the competition 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.