Gathered outside the beautiful Cinnamon Kitchen yesterday morning, three key members behind the Halal Food Festival spoke about the inaugural event, set to attract an astonishing 20,000 visitors at the London ExCel between 27 – 29 September, 2013.
Imran Kausar, Founder of the Halal Food Festival, Noman Khawaja, Events Director and Cinnamon Kitchen’s Chef Abdul Yaseen who also appears on the popular cooking show Haloodies, all spoke about the forthcoming event and how it could potentially impact the future of halal food in the UK.
Kausar spoke about his childhood in Scotland where halal produce was a rarity as well as the realisation that there was a huge gap within the food industry.
“At an early age it was very apparent that halal was separate and I didn’t like that distinction, I wanted to make it normal. That was a seed that was planted. Fast forward 25 to 30 years, that ambition still burned inside me. Through attending loads of food festivals it was apparent that I was missing out and if I was missing out, my friends and colleagues who also enjoyed halal food was missing out. I thought, why can’t there be a halal food festival?
“I knew there wasn’t one in London so I looked into it and I was really astonished to find there wasn’t one anywhere in the world.”
The food festival will not only include the launch of Joho Soho – a new Indian Street food stall – but a line up exhibitors that together bring a culinary delight of cuisines, all of which are halal. One such exhibitor present at the conference was Aneesh Popat, a young, budding chocolatier who’s range of water based chocolates are a real fusion of Eastern spices and Western influences. With no cream, no butter, no eggs and no gelatine, Popat has ensured that his delightful treats are 100% halal.
Whilst some may think of this event exclusively to Muslims, there is a huge urge for non-Muslims to attend in order to learn more about what it means to be halal and come away with a new perspective.
“Halal is important for religious reasons but it is also important for scientific reasons, which I think people should be educated on more and especially the people who are into cooking food and also those who hear about halal food,” explained Chef Abdul Yaseen.
Whilst supermarkets are slowly bridging a gap and have introduced some halal produce, there is also the question about the number of restaurants and whether they are proportionate to the number of Muslims in the UK, which according to the 2011 census stands at 2.7 million.
“I think it’s not so much about quantity, it’s about quality and range,” Kausar said. “I think there are a large, probably disproportionately large number of chicken restaurants and fast food restaurants and I think that might have been acceptable at one point but I think most of us want better than that. So I think there is an insufficient number of very good quality Indian, Japanese, Italian and French restaurants that are authentic in their food but are halal.”
The event promises to have something for everyone. Live demos, cooking classes, a mixologist set to concoct delicious mocktails, harmonious nasheed singers and even a little Haloodies area for children.
With a matter of weeks to go and so much packed into one weekend, I was curious to know what the ambitious founder himself was looking forward to.
“In all honesty I’m looking forward to the first set of visitors to come through the door and hopefully come up to me and say “Imran, thank you, this was really good, this was worth the £20 admission fee, we had a great time and we will come back next year.” That’s what I’m looking forward to the most.”
If you haven’t yet bought your tickets and are interested in attending the event, find out more on the official website.