British Kebab Awards Founder Ibrahim Dogus' Speech at the Fifth Annual British Kebab Awards
Time to Celebrate the Great British Kebab
Fifth annual Kebab Awards 2017
Lords, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, and fellow lovers of the great British kebab.
Thank you. My name is Ibrahim Dogus, founder of the British Kebab Awards, and I am delighted to welcome you this evening.
This year, I am welcoming you with a glass of Bira – the new bottled beer drafted especially to accompany kebabs. If you like beer, I hope you will try it.
I also hope you enjoy the complimentary copy of British Kebab magazine which is on your tables.
I'd like to begin by thanking my team Buket, Edward, George and Ozlem. As we all know these events happen because of hard work behind the scenes, so thank you.
Can I encourage everyone here to buy a raffle ticket if you haven’t already? We are raising money for the charity Combat Stress, a really great cause.
Our hashtag this evening is #BritishKebabAwards so please join in the party on Twitter.
We should always be ready and willing to celebrate the kebab industry and our contribution to British cuisine, to our communities and to the economy,
But I am also particularly pleased to celebrate five years of the British Kebab Awards.
So much has happened in these past five years. We’ve gone from Cameron to May. From Obama to Trump. From inside the EU to the brink of Brexit.
Our industry has grown. And the British Kebab Awards has become an established part of the calendar.
It hasn’t been an easy year for our communities.
Times have been tough.
Many of the places around the world, with which many of us feel an affinity, have been stricken by conflict and violence.
The world feels like an uneasy, unsafe place.
So it is all the more impressive that our industry survives, thrives, and grows.
There are 20,000 Kebab businesses in the UK. Kebab businesses are overwhelmingly Small and Medium Enterprises and SME's are the backbone of the British economy.
The British Kebab industry contributes £2.8billion to the Exchequer.
But we make more than a purely economic contribution:
The kebab industry is at the heart of virtually every community in Britain. When many places have shut late at night, there is a light that never goes out for those seeking hot and filling food.
For millions a kebab is the perfect end to a night out. The kebab van or takeaway is a place of refuge, reward and reassurance.
As a famous American chef once said, you don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.
That’s certainly true of the kebab.
Kebabs have been around for a long time. In the eighth century BC, Homer mentions kebabs in The Odyssey.
So we know at the same time in antiquity the Pharoahs were building their pyramids in Egypt
and the Upanishads were being written in India,
there was a kebab seller with a hot grill and a sharp knife serving up kebabs.
There is evidence of kebabs even earlier across the middle east, and the words shish and kebab have their origins in Persian, Kurdish and Turkish.
We will never know who first invented the kebab – Turkish, Greek, Persian or Kurdish - but we must be grateful that they did.
I have a confession to make.
Last year when I introduced the kebab awards, I said that kebabs came to Britain in the 1960s. But I was wrong!
We have discovered that there was a kebab shop in London called Istanbul as early as 1940s.
If you know of an earlier example, please let us know.
Our awards tonight celebrate our industry, but our industry is only as good as the people who work in it.
I mentioned the late-night heroes, serving up hot food on a cold night. The industry is more than that, though.
It is all of the people involved in food preparation, distribution and sales, it is the accountants, the owners, and the entrepreneurs.
It is the people with a vision, who are prepared to invest, take a risk and work hard.
It is always worth remembering that all too often these people are immigrants, or the children of immigrants.
In this year of Brexit, let’s not be blinded to the positive contribution of people who’ve come to live in the UK, to put down roots, to work hard, pay taxes and to build the community.
Tonight we celebrate all of these people.
Our awards tonight show the strength and vigour of the kebab industry.
The standard gets higher every year, our distinguished panel of judges has had a harder-than-ever job to select the winners.
I want to thank the judges for their hard work, and wish every shortlisted chef and restaurant good luck.
Finally I'd like to thank all sponsors, namely Just Eat and its managing director Graham Corfield,
Galliard Homes and its Sales director, David Galman,
Crucials Sauce and Paul Cotran and Phil Ellis,
Big K and Mike Theodorou,
Alton and Co and Altan Kemal
Molson Coors and Martyn Cousins
Osman Senkul of Melen Wines
Cobra Beer and Lord Bilimora
and all other sponsors.
I’d like to thank the MPs and politicians who are with us tonight, and who have sent us their messages of support.
And thanks to all the journalists and broadcasters who are here, and who bring the Kebab Awards to a wider audience.
I'd like to thank our supporters in the trade unions especially Tim Roache and GMB, Steve Turner and Unite, and also Community Union and CWU for their support.
And on a personal note, I’d like thank my wife, Raife, for her support. It isn’t easy being married to a restaurateur, as many of you will know.
Enjoy tonight. This is an industry that is going places, and you all deserve a night of celebration.
Here’s to the next five years.