"It's a great feeling, for all the hard work and effort to be recognised" said a delighted Demir. "The biggest joy is to be able to further refine what we're doing, pushing boundaries. There's so much potential in this cuisine."
How the British Kebab Awards became an unlikely fixture on the foodie calendar
Forget the Brits and the Grammys. Baftas? Small fry. Think last week's Oscars were the highlight of awards season? Think again. Last night, politicians, celebs and industry members descended on London's Park Plaza Westminster Bridge hotel for the main event: the sixth British Kebab Awards.
Kicking off the night with an emotional speech, awards founder Ibrahim Dogus highlighted the contribution of Turkish, Kurdish and Cypriot immigration, and kebab shops in particular, to British culture and the economy. He told a packed room: "In an otherwise darkened street, the kebab shop is the light that never goes out."
But the question on everyone's lips was - who would be crowned king of the koftes, the sheikh of shish, the doyen of the doner and the master of the mangal? The coveted prize - Chef of the Year - went to Mazlum Demir of Skewd Kitchen in Barnet, North London, for the second year running.
Skewd Kitchen is revered in London for its 'Anatolian with attitude' credo, offering modern twists on the classic Turkish kebab restaurant, and for the quality of its produce. Skewd beat 153 outlets for the main prize at the event attended by over 1,200 guests.
"Demir is a young chef emerging as one of the best in the industry," Dogus told The Telegraph. "He's an example to others, to modernise, to use fine British ingredients to make great Turkish food. All the winners make amazing food, but Skewd in particular has changed the game in terms of presentation. I'm sure they'll have a huge influence in raising the bar."
The British Kebab Awards have become a major feature in Britain's foodie calendar since their inception in 2013, and Dogus is delighted with the current kebab scene. "Some of the kebabs being produced in the top flight are incredible. The cuisine is coming of age in Britain with interesting twists and, at its heart, good ingredients cooked well."
Dogus, who moved to Britain from Turkey in 1991 with his parents and ran for parliament in 2017, founded the awards for two reasons. Firstly, he thought the kebab industry, with its reputation for pallid grey doner kebabs consumed at ungodly hours, wasn't getting the recognition it deserved.
Dogus has worked in kebab restaurants since he was 14, and believes many chefs and owners were previously underappreciated and demoralised. "People like my father didn't feel very happy leaving for work. There was no appreciation, no celebration of the industry."