If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen!

Things are hotting up in the National Curry Chef Competition, as Merton chef Binu Raj, from the Cocum South Indian Restaurant, has won the regional finals and will now be representing London at the National Final of the Curry Chef Competition at the BBC Good Food Show on Wednesday 26 November 2003.

Mr Raj won the final of the Merton heats of the competition in July, which was hosted by Merton College. He went on to repeat his success in the regional finals at Westminster Kingsway College on 28 October 2003 and will now be representing London at the national finals of this prestigious competition, which is being held at the BBC Good Food Show at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham.

In the competition each chef has one hour to produce three dishes, to include one main curry dish, one complimentary side dish, and a bread or rice dish. Entrants are judged on taste, presentation and food hygiene. Mr Raj’s menu consisted of Fish Molly, Baigan Bagara and Paratha.

The national final will be staged on a specially designed cooking arena located on the Food Standards Agency stand. All seven regional finalists will join the CIEH Curry Chef 2002 winner, Mr Chad Rahman of the Mumtaj, St Albans to compete for the CIEH-FSA National Curry Chef 2003 title.

Mayor of Merton, Councillor Maxi Martin, was one of the judges in the Merton final of the competition and she attended the regional final to offer her support to the Merton chef. She said: “I am delighted that a Merton chef has done so well in the competition in the very first year the borough has participated. It just goes to show the high quality of restaurants we have in the borough.

“I wish Mr Binu Raj all the best for when he represents the borough in the national final of the competition and I have my fingers crossed for him. It is a fantastic achievement.”

Mr Raj has been a chef for 10 years, and worked in Kenya until he came to the UK in 1998, the Cocum South Indian Restaurant has been open for nearly a year. Cocum serve Kerala Village Cuisine, this method of cooking is different because it uses a mixture of sauces that take up to 20 minutes to prepare prior to cooking, giving a very distinct flavour to the dishes.

This is the first year Merton has participated in the National Curry Chef Competition. The local heats of the competition were open to all registered food businesses within the borough of Merton.