There are only two black head chefs with a Michelin star in the UK, a Guardian analysis has found, prompting leading chefs to call for action to make kitchens more diverse.
The Michelin guide is dominated by restaurants serving international cuisines, with traditional Chinese and Japanese food among the most prominent. Across the 165 restaurants in the UK with the food industry’s most coveted prize, 12% of head chefs are from a minority ethnic background.
But when the data, analysed as part of the Guardian’s Bias in Britain series, is broken down further, it shows that black and south Asian head chefs lead 6% of Michelin-starred restaurants, with only two of them black. One of the two declined to be identified. The other is Michael Caines, the chef proprietor of Lympstone Manor.
Caines was a holder of two Michelin stars for 18 consecutive years before he decided to run his own hotel, Lympstone Manor. He was awarded a Michelin star there in 2017, just six months after opening.
“The good thing about the catering industry is you can never hold a good man down,” Caines said, but he admitted that throughout his career “it always felt you had to compensate for that impression that people see you first for the colour and secondly for who you are.”He said more needed to be done to break down barriers and encourage more people from minority ethnic backgrounds into the industry.
Mitu Chowdhury, the organising secretary of the Bangladesh Caterers Association, said there are many talented BAME chefs up and down the country. “We get talent, we don’t get the opportunity,” he said.
He said the restaurant industry had a problem with retention as well as recruitment of BAME chefs, and greater recognition of their achievements would help to reverse the situation. “If we work hard, we make something spectacular and we don’t get recognition, we lose interest,” he said.
Chowdhury believes that because African, Caribbean, and south Asian cuisine can be bought cheaply as takeaways, it is not taken as seriously in the assessment process as typically more expensive European cuisine.