Kofte king Kebab Awards hopes

 Pic Ian Georgeson

This article was first published on the Edinburgh Evening News on 12 February 2018.

Besnik Hajdari of Javits Take Away is the only Scottish chef to have been shortlisted for Best Chef of the Year 2018 at the 6th British Kebab Awards. 

The finalists of Britain’s Kebab Awards have been revealed and pita’d against rivals from across the UK is the Capital’s top takeaway chef. Besnik Hajdari, 33, from Craigmillar has been shortlisted as the only Scottish chef in the running for the top gong for his delectable doner skills at Javits Takeaway in Gilmerton. The passionate chef, who moved to the city from Kosovo ten years ago, was bitten by the cooking bug while he was working in an Italian restaurant.

The head chef taught him the culinary ropes and his love affair with different cuisines has now become his bread and butter. He said: “My favourite things to cook are meals like seafood pasta, chicken and vegetable rice and an Albanian traditional pastry called Flija.” The father-of-one would be delighted to win the category but said he is overwhelmed simply to be shorlisted. “I am very excited and proud to get this nomination for Scotland. “Our customers respect us, love our food – our kebabs and pizzas are very popular and all the ingredients are fresh – the dough, the salads and sauces are all made daily.

“I will be so proud if I get the title of the Best Chef in Scotland but even now I am excited to get this far – I am still counting on our customers to vote for us!” A win would be a double celebration for Besnik, who turns 34 on March 12, the day of the awards ceremony. In the hotly contested Chef of the Year category, Besnik is aiming for the double after the restaurant won 2015’s Best Kebab in Scotland award. But he faces stiff competition from last year’s winner, Mazlum Demir from Skewd Kitchen, in London and Haci Akdogan of Haz Restaurant in London’s Square Mile who triumphed in the best chef category in 2015. Members of the public nominated 5,012 of their favourite kebab shops and these were whittled down to a shortlist of 153 based on the number of public votes received with bonus points for nominations from MPs and councillors.

The winners of the sixth annual awards will be announced after judging by former Tory chairwoman Baroness Warsi, Shadow Economic Secretary Jonathan Reynolds, Amjad Bashir MEP and Heart Radio presenter Lucy Horobin. Awards founder Ibrahim Dogus said: “Kebab is fast becoming the nation’s favourite food.”

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