This story, which first appeared in the June issue of Restaurant magazine, looks at the rise in the number of Asian restaurants operating in the UK and at how some of the less familiar cuisines here, such as Korean and Malaysian, are set to become a lot bigger. Asian food has been on offer in restaurants around the UK for years, but 2012 was really the year when the market opened out with many existing brands expanding and new ones coming to the fore. Ironically, it was also the year when new immigration laws came into effect, stopping companies from employing staff from outside Europe unless they are paid £28,000 or more. We will see what 2013 holds for this sector, particularly as the Government is looking at removing skilled chefs from its occupation list completely. Let's hope it continues to thrive and innovate despite the obstacles it faces.
Comment from Sam Rooke of Jellybean Creative Solutions
Chinese and Thai restaurants have marked out our towns and cities for decades. What has changed is the sheer breadth of concepts and regional styles now on offer and the way in which we choose to consume these foods.
It’s no surprise that one of the biggest trends in eating out – street food – has, in part, been spearheaded by Asian cuisine. Of course, this is just one part of the meteoric rise of a more diverse offering, concepts like Yo Sushi! and Wagamama have led the way for more diverse players like Pho and Kimchee to find an audience keen for new flavours.
You could argue that a perception of Asian food as a moderately healthier alternative has played a role in this increasing popularity, but you might also point to a more attuned consumer desire for authenticity and value, brought about, in part, by the current state of the economy.
Of course, if it’s authenticity you crave, you need a skilled chef that has been immersed in the culture and subtle nuances of the food they are producing, meaning that they are more than likely going to hail from the concept’s country of origin. The Government’s changes to immigration laws, introduced this year, has effectively put the skids on restaurant groups in the UK attracting the most experienced, talented chefs from around the world which could effectively halt the march of new and exciting concepts in its tracks.
For the third year running there was some controversy over the release of the UK & Ireland Michelin Guide. This year, it was hastily released to the press eight days earlier than planned after a blip on its own website meant that results had been visible to eagle-eyed users for a short period that day. There were no huge surprises this year and no new three star restaurants. However, restaurateurs, chefs and diners were eager, as ever, to find out who had been awarded, or re-awarded a much-coveted star with the release of the information. Michelin has its critics, but the fact that this story was so well-read, and that our story featuring an interview with its editor Rebecca Burr - Michelin Guide 2013: What makes a Michelin-starred restaurant - fell just outside the top-10 list demonstrates that there are still plenty who care about, or at least are interested in, what it has to say.
Comment from Michelle Diederichs, Koyah PR
All restaurant guides and awards have their critics but from a marketing perspective securing a listing or award can provide a fantastic boost for the business and a reason for new customers to visit - provided you let them know about it. Awards also recognise hard work and talent which is great for team morale and motivation.
In terms of Michelin specifically, it is always good to be first and Michelin has the heritage that recently-launched guides can only dream of. No other guide incites quite the same amount of apprehension as Michelin and I know from speaking to Michelin-starred chefs that once a star is attained there is the constant pressure to retain it. I imagine that many aspiring chefs who have winning or retaining a star on their Christmas wish list would have found Rebecca Burr’s insight very useful.
The fact that the Michelin guide is global adds to its importance and credibility. Whilst social media has opened up a whole new world of critics - good and bad, it has also increased awareness of more established reviews. When the UK Michelin Guide was inadvertently published a week too early the world knew in seconds thanks to the likes of Twitter.
There is no doubt that Britain is climbing up the world culinary rankings and the last few years have been exciting for the industry as new dining concepts and cooking techniques have developed and succeeded. However, whilst many of us want to take advantage of the great food on offer we don’t want to waste our hard earned cash on poor quality food.
It might just be luck but I’ve yet to eat a bad meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant. You can’t sniff at 112 years of experience and whilst amateur critics will come and go, I believe that there will always be a place for Michelin, it appears that BigHospitality's readers think so too.
You can read all our articles from our 2012 look-back here.