End of Year Review from S. Choudhury (2016)

We come to the close of another year and like every year, we are left wondering how on earth it has finished so quickly! Undoubtedly it has been a tough and emotional year in which we have lost many celebrities, colleagues, loved ones and even personalities in the curry industry; including the untimely passing of Mr. Goyas Miah (Uncle) who was a dear friend of my Father, we lost Peter Grove (a famous restaurant critic & lover of the British Raj) as well as Lord Gulam Noon.

It seems slightly surreal that 18 months ago, I graduated from the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy & took the reins of Royston Tandoori as a fresh faced 18 year old British-Bangladeshi excited at the upcoming challenges and prospect of running my own business.

Fast forward 18 months, and Royston is now home to one of the top Indian takeaways in the country, holding a clutch of awards & titles to back up the claim of being amongst the best; alongside a shiny five star hygiene rating.

The year kicked off with giving back to the community, in the form of a few Indian culinary masterclasses at my old stomping ground – Roysia Middle School. What an experience, teaching truly is rewarding and it was a great feeling watching all of the prodigy chefs cook with such passion.

image
The first class at Roysia Middle School, led by Executive Chef Habibur Rahman-Shamim in January 2016
12376322_1056640217726227_1036115235694116695_n
Myself leading a class at Roysia in March 2016

In January, we received our first award after the Royston & District Round Table crowned Royston Tandoori with the title “Best Indian Takeaway in Royston 2016” subsequent to a secret taste test of all the Indian restaurants and takeaways in the area.

In February, I was called to the national stage to explain my opinions on the #BritishCurryCrisis & how to get the “next generation” of the British-Bangladeshi diaspora involved in the lucrative British curry industry at a programme called “Catering Circle“, organised by Channel S.

12654384_1677289195875805_859427246015404621_n
At the Channel S programme “Catering Circle” with BBC Asian Network presenter Nadia Ali and an audience of over 1000 guests

Since then, I have been a regular invited panel guest at Channel S to voice my concerns and again to give my perspective on how to attract the younger generation.

catering
Speaking about my career & attracting a new generation of restaurateurs at ‘Catering Circle’ in August 2016
catering-2
Again talking about how to attract the new generation of restaurateurs in November 2016

In March, North Hertfordshire District Council paid a surprise visit to our premises to carry out an inspection and review our management. Royston Tandoori was awarded the full five stars in the ‘Scores on the Doors’ scheme, recognising food hygiene, cleanliness and confidence in management!

image-2

I trekked to the depths of East London in May, upon invitation from Ibrahim Rahman, for an interview at London Bangla TV. We discussed my career, the curry industry and the hot topic of attracting the new generation of British-Bangladeshi restaurateurs.

13263918_1076167942428834_2413106421748810314_n-1
Sharing a joke with Ibrahim Rahman on the Youth Corner Show at LB24 in May 2016

As we leaped into a scorching hot summer, whilst fasting in Ramadan, I ran the 5km ‘Royston in Blue‘ fun run in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust. We were the headline sponsor at this event, with our logo on the race numbers.

13510865_1735249073413150_2384477167807268212_n
With Lucy Mackintosh, Yvonne Mackintosh and Lisa Thompson of Teenage Cancer Trust after the 5km run in June 2016

 

We catered for thousands of Royston festival goers at the Ad Hoc Summer Soul event in July 2016.

In mid-July, Executive Chef Habibur Rahman-Shamim & I travelled to the House of Commons for the prestigious ‘Tiffin Cup‘, which is a parliamentary curry contest where MPs nominate the Best South Asian Restaurant in their constituency to compete against each other at the Commons. Sir Oliver Heald QC MP nominated Royston Tandoori as the ‘Best South Asian Restaurant in North East Hertfordshire‘ and followed by a ‘Highly Commended‘ award at the Palace of Westminster.

tiffin
At the Palace of Westminster with Sir Oliver Heald & Habibur Rahman-Shamim (Executive Chef) in July 2016

The next day I flew to Ibiza for a 10 day break.

In October, we were surprised and pleasantly shocked as Royston Tandoori received ‘Best Eatery in Royston & District‘ at the Royston Business Awards which was organised by Royston & District Chamber of Commerce. There were over a hundred qualifying restaurants & takeaways in the SG8 area, and 4 were finally shortlisted. The evening was very well organised and enjoyed by all; it was even greater to meet one of my favourite soap stars again (Gillian Taylforth)!

November 2016 was a successful and memorable month, I hosted Royston’s first ever Bollywood Dinner & Dance to raise funds for the Royston Town Mayor’s Community Trust Fund. We entertained just under 100 guests at the Town Hall and raised a staggering £750+ for local charities and organisations.

bollywood
With the Mayor of Royston Cllr Sarah Dingley and the gorgeous dancers at our inaugural Bollywood Dinner & Dance

To date, my proudest accolade was achieved at the British Curry Awards 2016. Royston Tandoori was shortlisted amongst only 9 takeaways across the nation and went one further by being in the ‘final five’ finalists in the running for the top title of ‘Best Delivery Restaurant/Takeaway’; unfortunately we missed out on the award to a brilliant restaurant in Brighton.

15578833_1280380728685507_4789406635073294824_n
With Shampan Group and our certificates

 

15193587_1807851366152920_4083289522175465566_n
With the British Curry Awards founder Enam Ali MBE (left) and my friend Abul Hyat Nurujjaman of Taj Accountants (right)

There is no doubt that 2016 has been our most successful year. Today, as a born and bred Roystonian, I am proud to achieve this standard and reach this height nationally. We could not have done this without the support of our thousand or so regular patrons, whom to we would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude for your nominations in the awards, votes and continued custom.

Wishing you all the best for the year ahead – thank you ROYSTON, I promise to keep giving back to you!

SAFWAAN CHOUDHURY
Managing Director

Returning to Roysia

“Nostalgia emerged as I returned to the school that taught me to dream big!”

imageL to R: Siddy Jordan, Caitlyn Grace, Safwaan Choudhury, Syed Miah, Habibur Rahman-Shamim, Faye Little & Joe Reader

Last Tuesday, the Royston Tandoori team spiced up Food Technology for a Year 8 class at Roysia Middle School in Royston.

At exactly 12:00pm I arrived at the entrance of Roysia’s reception, accompanied by my business partner Syed and our Executive Chef Habibur. Upon entering the automatic doors to the reception and office, memories flashed through my mind – as a pupil, I’d have to come this way to enter the school if I was late. It felt so odd pressing the green button/buzzer to gain the office’s attention.

Nostalgia emerged as I returned to the school that taught me to dream big! The office holds so many memories for me – I remember having pieces of my own classwork featured on the walls and sitting plenty of times in the Headteacher’s office sharing both laughs and tears with my old Headteacher, Mr. Fielden.

I was greeted by Mrs. Underwood and I was left to make my way to the Food Technology room. As we passed through to the dining room, Syed was confused and turned to the canteen; “No, it’s this way! Ahead and then right.” I shouted, as I eagerly raced through the corridor, armed with various spices. To my left was the Science Lab – in this room during 2007, I auditioned for Skatoony (a Cartoon Network game show) and I recall countless School Council meetings inside those four walls when I served during both Year 6 & Year 8.

So we headed to the Food Tech room and familiarised ourselves with the surroundings. Soon, the class poured in – 20 or so Year 8 pupils.

I started the session by introducing our team and giving some background knowledge of the history of ‘Indian’ curry – the kids were surprised to learn that Tikka Masala is more British than fish & chips and that the Bangladeshi diaspora were the true pioneers of ‘Indian’ cuisine.

When talking about what we’d be cooking during the lesson, I was shocked when almost none of the pupils knew what spinach was! I then referenced ‘Popeye the Sailor Man’ who loved spinach; I was even more shocked when I received a blank response. NOBODY knew Popeye! “A sign of your age, Saf” said Mrs. Baigent.

Executive Chef Habibur kicked off the cooking bonanza – guiding the pupils step-by-step how they’d create their own Indian restaurant classics. The pupils were particularly in awe when the chef created a large flame with garlic. Nearly everyone sampled the various layers of taste, flavour and heritage – I was really pleased that many concluding that ‘spice’ didn’t necessarily mean ‘hot’.

image (1)A first class cooking lesson by Executive Chef Habibur Rahman-Shamim – the first of its kind in Royston

Before we knew it, the hour had finished and Habibur concluded the first part of the lesson.

As we left class for lunch, I was met by plenty of faces from the past – hugs and kisses all round! Firstly, the dinner ladies who kept a watchful eye since much earlier childhood – during my early years at neighbouring Roman Way First School.

Followed by Mrs. Clark, who put up with my nonsense throughout the years, taught me French and who was both my tutor & Head of Year during my final year at Roysia. I’ll never forget the memories made during my first visit to France – pure class!

I then encountered Mrs. Jandu, who taught me much of the skills in ICT that I still use today as well as Maths in Year 6. I will never forget how mesmerised I was (alongside pretty much my whole year group) with Mrs. Jandu’s sweet cupboard, it’s safe to say this lady had us mildly addicted to Rainbow Dust! I also remember featuring on national and regional news on ITV – both on GMTV (now Daybreak) and Anglia Tonight – as a result of an anti-bullying initiative: CyberMentors.

Miss Linington passed by shortly and we conversed very briefly. I had bumped into my old Deputy Head (and later Headteacher) several times in recent years whilst at Meridian and quite recently at my sister’s prize giving ceremony at the Royston upper school. If my recollection is correct, Mr. Fielden commissioned the school council to interview prospective candidates for the new Deputy Head post when I was the Year 6 council representative – we all chose Miss Linington of course! One distinct memory I have was losing my Tommy Hilfiger watch on the field one summer and coming to her office red faced & in tears, only to find it had been handed in! In my final prize giving at Roysia, I was award the Headteacher’s Award from Miss Linington and I must say that was one of my proudest achievements.

It was now lunchtime and I was invited for a school dinner – I haven’t had one of these in almost 6 years; needless to say I was looking forward to this! What was to follow was something that I had never experienced in my 4 years at Roysia, I savoured lunch in the STAFF ROOM. I bumped into Mr. Carter, who I shared light banter about how the circumstances have changed for both our football teams and Mrs. Morley.

I mingled with the new additions at Roysia since I left in 2010, and reminisced my time at what once was my stomping ground. Countless memories were discussed – from the Year 5 trip to Aylmerton, which was my first week away from home, to the last thing I did as a Roysia pupil: playing the role of ‘Lord Capulet’ in ‘Romeo & Juliet’ by Anthony Glenn.

Returning to Roysia was very much a trip down memory lane for me – it’s where I developed as a personality and learned plenty of life skills such as confidence and relationship building. The school holds hundreds of terrific memories that I will forever cherish – in the latest edition of our menu, I named our flagship speciality “Lady Roysia” to commemorate one of the best chapters of my time in education.

Thank you to the class who listened so attentively, asked intelligent questions politely and engaged so enthusiastically! I’d like to also express my sincere gratitude to Mrs. Baigent, Miss Linington and the whole school for welcoming me back – I really enjoyed it!

I look forward to returning.

SAFWAAN CHOUDHURY
Managing Director

You can read about the Royston Tandoori visit to Roysia in the Royston Crow at http://www.royston-crow.co.uk/news/royston_restaurant_owner_goes_back_to_school_to_give_indian_cooking_advice_1_4373865.

End of Year Review from S. Choudhury

2015 has been a wonderful roller-coaster of a year for me – graduating from the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy & taking the reins of Royston Tandoori; it’s been one hell of a journey!

The beginning of the journey saw myself being featured in the August issue of The Listing, the “go-to-guide of Royston and beyond”, this brilliant magazine has been the source of huge support and as a result of it I have formed some great friendships with the likes of Cath, Sharon, Kate & the team.

In early September, Archant journalist Rebecca Day wrote a piece about my background in the Royston Crow (our local newpaper). How surreal that was – a journalist really wanted to know about my story; somehow I was news and I could not believe it!

The rest of the media attention is history.

Later, as a result of Rebecca’s article, the BBC got in touch via BBC Asian Network for a one-to-one interview as did the Daily Star newspaper. It began to feel bizarre! Kirren Rathor’s report on BBC Asian Network went live during the same 24 hours as the Daily Star released their “Curry King” article about me. It happened that it was also National Curry Week and word began to spread quick.

During National Curry Week, we donated a pound from every order and pledged it to the Royston Poppy Appeal and raised hundreds of pounds for a wonderful cause. The Royston Tandoori team also paid tribute with a poppy wreath at the Remembrance Day service in Royston.

The BBC invited me back the following week to speak on Nihal’s live show at BBC Broadcasting House – what an experience – my first time in Oxford Circus and Great Portland Street. I wouldn’t have imagined any of this in my wildest dreams.

The honours just amounted and amounted. The Peter Jones Foundation and Peter Jones Enterprise Academy featured my story from my perspective on their websites. Word then spread all the way to Enam Ali MBE, the founder of the prestigious British Curry Awards, and he wrote a piece on me in Spice Business (arguably the most popular industry magazine in the Indian catering sector).

I can quite easily say it has well and truly been the best year of my life and I am so excited for what the future holds! The motive for this coming year is to achieve both in my studies at University of Hertfordshire & get my hands on some awards at the British Curry Awards!

It’s been nothing short of a dream come true but in no way was it easy. This year I have received astonishing support from the people of Royston and beyond, I’m still so overwhelmed by it! I would like to thank my family & friends, our loyal patrons, valued customers and most importantly the people of Royston!

Wishing you all the best for the year ahead – thank you ROYSTON, I promise to keep giving back to you!

SAFWAAN CHOUDHURY
Managing Director