Sabir Karim: 'I’ve always loved food, but because of the travelling I get to do with my job I experienced some of the finest food from around the globe'
Published: 15 January, 2013
by SAM CREIGHTON
SABIR Karim is high-flying in more ways than one. The Camden chef, who splits his time between running his restaurants and jetting around the world as a member of British Airways’ cabin crew, recently won the “Chef of the Year” gong at the British Curry Awards (BCA).
The 43-year old father-of-three, who is originally from Bangladesh, opened his first restaurant, Salaam Namaaste, in Bloomsbury in 2005 and followed it up last year with Namaaste Kitchen in Primrose Hill. He has attracted glowing praise from the capital’s food critics and Namaaste Kitchen was recognised at November’s BCA as the best new Indian restaurant in the country.
Mr Karim has worked for British Airways for 17 years and it was flying between the world’s culinary hotspots that ignited his desire to own his own restaurant.
He said: “I’ve always loved food, but because of the travelling I get to do with my job I experienced some of the finest food from around the globe and that encouraged me to set up my own place.”
The chef says his two establishments attract entirely different crowds, with his newer restaurant bringing in an edgier clientele.
“Salaam Namaaste is more homely, more local, while in Namaaste Kitchen customers’ expectations are a lot higher, it’s more like a destination restaurant,” he said.
With bare brick walls and a live cooking area, Namaaste Kitchen tries to embody the vibrant atmosphere Camden is famous for.
“We have very much taken the spirit of Camden into our restaurant,” Mr Karim. “It’s very modern, it’s chic but it's got this Camden feel.”
The mixture of its award-winning reputation and Primrose Hill location also pulls in the big names, with David Miliband and Dermot O’Leary among the famous faces often seen crowded around the tables.
Winning the Chef of the Year award has a special place in Mr Karim’s heart as he has never had any formal training. When he decided he wanted to be hands-on in his kitchens he went for a crash course in some of his favourite restaurants, spending one week in Delhi and three in Karachi, learning the basics of cooking.
The secret, he says, to making a great curry is “using authentic recipes and authentic food but in an innovative way”, and he says the biggest tip he can give is to source ingredients locally to keep the dish as fresh as possible.
He takes this spirit of innovation with him as his flies around the world and often comes back from his travels with new recipes.
“I was in Hong Kong and Vietnam last week and I picked up a couple of recipes,” said Mr Karim. “We’ve just introduced a lobster dish on our menu which is a recipe that I picked up from Vietnam, but we’ve implemented it with a very Indian taste.”
Mr Karim says his ethos is: “You’ll have tough times but you must always stay strong and committed. Hard work really pays off and you should never feel resentment if things go wrong, just try again.”
He is taking this philosophy into 2013, a year in which he hopes to expand his network of restaurants further, and although no plans are finalised, Mr Karim is hopeful, saying he’s “excited to see what the next 12 months might hold”.