In the four years since it was established, the Leicester Curry Awards has grown from a modest, hometown celebration to a night that will be televised across the world.
The event which was founded by Pukaar Group was recently picked up by PTC Punjabi, the most popular television network in Punjab, India and the upcoming 2021 awards show will be showcased to audiences across the globe. The network broadcasts to countries across the world including the UK, United States, Canada and Australia.
With Leicester being the most ethnically diverse place in Britain, the Leicester Curry Awards was a proud reflection of its diverse hometown. Home to the ‘Golden Mile’, the city had long contended for the title of UK’s curry capital but when the awards show came along, something shifted in the restaurant and takeaway culture. Happy customers were given a new way to show their appreciation for their favourite establishments and there was a flurry of excitement as voting opened to the public.
The awards night went from strength to strength and garnered more attention and anticipation as the years went by. Talk of the Leicester Curry Awards was also more frequent amongst the city’s curry houses and the night became something to look forward to. In the past, notable judges from the BBC and ITV also sat on the judging panel, planting the night firmly on the city’s social calendar.
But in a now all too familiar tale, along came the pandemic in 2020 and in a crushing blow to the small, independent team, the event was postponed with a heavy heart. This was despite finalists for each category already being announced three weeks prior in a celebratory ceremony held at the Mattioli Woods Plc building on 2 March 2020.
However, although the event was postponed, for Pukaar Group the work had only just begun. Through the years, the awards team had naturally forged close relationships with Leicester’s eateries and when lockdown showed no sign of ending, they began working together on a plan to help the community.
They teamed up with previous award-winners and runner-ups such as Masalas (takeaway), Mithaas (restaurant) and Chutney Ivy (restaurant) to donate food to Leicestershire Police, Leicester City Council, NHS staff and Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service. Through lockdown, the generous establishments supplied over 100 meals a day across the city and county.
However, as the city eased out of lockdown and restrictions lifted on July 19, the awards team recognised that it was Leicestershire’s curry houses – like many other small businesses across the country – that now needed public support. As such, despite the odds of another lockdown being implemented, Pukaar Group defiantly announced the awards would be coming back in 2021 but it would be in recognition of 2020’s finalists that had not yet been given their special night.
It was for this reason that this year’s event was titled ‘Leicester Curry Awards 2020/21’. It’s a reminder that the efforts of these establishments, this year and last, didn’t go unnoticed and won’t be forgotten. And for the small team behind the event, it’s also a mark of triumph that the show would go on despite the numerous postponements and knock backs that they had endured.
As plans for the event were underway and the team worked hard to put the show together, they received news that would have seemed unbelievable just a few months earlier. The evening was to be broadcast by PTC Punjabi. After 18 months of bad news and pushbacks, it was an unbelievable triumph that the Leicester Curry Awards would be returning.
But not only that it was back, but that it would be bigger, brighter and beamed into the front room of millions of people.
By Gita Sarasia
Leicester Curry Awards team