The cream of the curry industry gathered this week for the 2011 British Curry Awards, founded by Epsom restaurateur, Enam Ali.

More than 1,500 restaurateurs, VIP guests and celebrities attended the gala awards dinner, now in its seventh year, at Battersea Evolution on Monday, November 28.

Guests included the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, Employment Minister and MP for Epsom and Ewell Chris Grayling, Conservative party co-chairman Baroness Warsi and a host of celebrities including Max Clifford, David Seaman, Charlie Brooker and Konnie Huq.

Prime Minster David Cameron delivered a video message describing the event as ‘uplifting and inspiring’ before announcing the evening’s first award, personality of the year, to Shelim Hussain, a former part-time curry house waiter whose business, Eurofoods (UK), now has a turnover of more than £80m and employs over 200 people.

The glittering event comes just weeks after Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced government plans for a ‘curry college’ to address a shortage of skilled curry chefs caused by restrictive immigration laws.

Currently one in four vacancies for skilled curry chefs remains unfilled within an industry which contributes £3.5bn a year to the economy and employs almost 100,000 people.

Mr Ali, who was recently made a Freeman of the City of London, has campaigned for more flexible immigration laws to address the shortage of trained chefs.

And despite welcoming the new initiative to train UK based chefs, Mr Ali believes the budget for Mr Pickle’s ‘curry college’ could be better spent by utilising existing colleges and running courses in conjunction with local restaurateurs.

He said: “Once equipped with the necessary basic skills, students could spend part of their week in college and part learning on the job in a restaurant.

“This to us seems a far more practical and potentially less costly solution that would allow those wanting to make a career in the industry to study closer to home rather than having to move away to a centralised location.”

Mr Ali also called on the Government to take measures to stimulate spending in the hospitality industry, suggesting a 5 per cent tax concession to boost the number of people dining out.

He said: “Along with virtually all other sectors in the hospitality industry, we are feeling the squeeze of the spending downturn.

“If we are not to see our industry contract seriously for the first time, we need some government help to stimulate spending.”