My name is Ibrahim Dogus and I am the founder of the British Kebab Awards.
Welcome to the sixth annual awards – bigger than ever before.
In six short years our event has grown into a major part of the culinary calendar.
It is our chance to celebrate our industry, recognise the superstar chefs, the energetic entrepreneurs, and to remember all the people working hard on the high street, or on a delivery bike, working as kitchen porters, or waiters, or in a kebab van, often late at night.
Our industry includes Kurds, Turks, Greeks, Lebanese, Armenians, plus many many other communities, some old, some new.
Many come from places of violence, repression and war.
Where tensions between peoples divides, our love of food unites.
An event like this, just like a business, doesn’t become established without real hard work.
So I want to start by thanking our supporters, especially our sponsor Just Eat, and Just Eat’s managing director Graham Corfield.
Graham, and Just Eat, have been a friend of the British Kebab Awards since day one.
Graham – you understand our industry, you get the importance of the kebab to local culture and jobs, and we sincerely thank you for your support.
Someone else who has been a great supporter since the start is Lord Bilimoria and Cobra Beer. Karan Bilimoria is such an inspiration to everyone starting and running a business.
He knows what it is like to start a business at the kitchen table, to take the knock-backs and disappointments, and to build something really special and successful.
He is a great public servant, and member of the House of the Lords. Thank you.
Some more people to thank: Mustafa Topkaya, Onder Sahan, Timur Ekingen and Altan Kemal were the first people I told about the idea of starting these awards, and Mr Sahan was the sponsor of the first British Kebab Awards.
Samson Sohail is another great person on whom we can always rely.
Without their encouragement and support we could not have done it.
They have also been unconditional supporters of the work we do at the Centre for Turkey Studies – CEFTUS – and British Kebab Awards.
So thank you.
And I must mention that tonight we are partnering with Sarcoma UK, the cancer charity, and are raising money for them this evening.
Please be generous.
Later tonight we’ll see who has won our coveted awards, from over five thousand nominations across the UK.
That’s the most nominations ever.
So thank you to our judges in their very difficult task of choosing the best of the best.
We have so many special people here tonight.
As well as chefs, owners, waiters, suppliers and the other people who make the magic of kebabs happen night after night, we are joined by some of the people enjoying them!
Members of Parliament, both Commons and Lords, from all political parties, welcome.
And from the world of newspapers, radio and television.
Tonight we have representatives from the Financial Times, The Sun, Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, The Times, ITN, Al Jazeera, Spectator, the Independent, Evening Standard and the Lambeth Life.
You may have seen us on Saturday Kitchen, or heard us on Chris Evans’ show on BBC Radio 2.
And our friends from the trade unions, who are supporting local jobs and local communities.
Frances O’Grady is here from the TUC.
Len McCluskey and Steve Turner from Unite the Union,.
Tim Roache from GMB,
Mick Whelan of Aslef,
Manuel Cortes of TSSA,
Our friends from RMT.
and many other unions with us this evening.
Thank you for your solidarity, both here in the UK, and your support on international issues too.
Thanks to the team at CEFTUS, and I am very proud to say that CEFTUS is now a London Living Wage accredited employer.
And there’s one person I thank every year above all, and this year she deserves extra thanks, and that’s my lovely wife, Thanks to you Raife, and to our wonderful son, Mirzan.
This year we opened a new restaurant the Westminster Kitchen, and I spent a chunk of summer 2017 as a Parliamentary candidate, so it’s been busier than ever.
Tonight we celebrate the people with a love of good food. The visionaries who build a business.
The creative geniuses who deliver hot meals in the most difficult of environments.
We recognise the contribution of immigrants to our national life. Kurds, Turks, Cypriots, Lebanese, Armenians, and others besides.
Some have been here for generations; others are still getting used to the cold.
But the fact is that without people leaving their homes and starting a new life in the UK, our culture and society would be poorer, in every respect.
We need to show our solidarity with minority communities and with immigrants.
So a special plea to all the politicians and the journalists – let’s celebrate the people who come here from across the globe and help to build a better Britain.
Immigrants create wealth; we create jobs; we add to the colour and vibrancy of our towns and cities, so let’s celebrate, not denigrate, immigrants and their families.
As we head towards Brexit, our economy will need more start-ups, more independent businesses, more SMEs, and the kebab industry is a massive net contributor to the economy.
Brexit must not be allowed to leave a damaging legacy to our catering industry, and to small and medium enterprises.
That is not a price worth paying.
We’ve launched a new initiative since last year, the British Takeaway Campaign.
I’m proud to be the first Chair of the British Takeaway Campaign – an industry-wide group that champions the economic, social and cultural contributions of the takeaway sector.
The takeaway sector contributes around £9.4 billion to the UK economy each year – 0.5% of economic growth – and employs 231,000 people across the UK.
Our mission is to ensure its continued growth.
That’s why we are working hard to ensure takeaways – not just kebab shops but also curry houses, fish and chips shops, Chinese takeaways and pizza parlours – can access the skills they need from within the EU and beyond – and through developing high-quality vocational training.
Thanks to Just Eat who have shown great leadership and genuine interest in supporting their partners within the takeaway industry
We are joined this evening by members of the British Takeaway Campaign including our friends from the Bangladeshi Caterers Association (BCA), the Food Packaging Association, K10 restaurants, Federation of Fish Friars, Seewoo and many others.
I hope you too will give the British Takeaway Campaign your support.
I have another announcement to make. Last year, we launched Bira, world’s first beer for kebabs.
This year we are launching National Kebab Week. The week that has 14th Feb (Valentine’s day) will be the National Kebab Week from now on. Another great chance to highlight what we do.
So tonight we celebrate the Kebab, and its place in our popular culture and local economy. Over 20,000 kebab shops.
The perfect end to a long evening. Or a daytime treat when you’re hard at work.
The perfect combination of spice, colour, texture and flavour, at a price every Briton can afford.
A welcoming light on an otherwise darkened high street.
The kebab shop is the light that never goes out.
We are proud of what we do, and tonight we celebrate the stars of our industry.
Good luck to everyone nominated for an award, and to all of you, have a wonderful evening.