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Opheem creates history as it gets two Michelin stars

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AN Indian restaurant in Birmingham has made history by becoming the first in the city to be awarded two Michelin stars.

Opheem, a Birmingham curry house, has made culinary history despite having just one Indian chef among its kitchen staff of 15.

Chef and owner Aktar Islam, originally from Aston, expressed his profound gratitude for this honour, calling it “an incredible honor.”

Islam, whose parents immigrated from Bangladesh to Birmingham in the 1970s, mentioned that his path to becoming a Michelin-starred chef commenced three decades ago when he was expelled from school and started working at his father’s curry restaurant.

The restaurant, renowned for its “progressive Indian cuisine,” opened its doors in England’s curry capital in 2018, attracting celebrities like Michael Buble and Gary Barlow.

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During an emotional acceptance speech on Monday (5) evening, he remarked that his achievement demonstrated the opportunities available within the culinary industry for individuals without promising prospects.

He further stated that his own journey served as evidence contrary to those who claim there are no opportunities in the field, dismissing such assertions.

According to him, fine food should have nothing to do with “ethnicity” or “the colour of your skin”.

“There are people out there who may not be from your ethnic background who love and revere your food so much that they want to take it on board themselves and dedicate their life to it,” he was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.

“It should never be something that should be ostracised or looked at in a negative light.”

He mentioned that the team is diverse, comprising individuals from different backgrounds who share a passion for food and providing excellent guest experiences.

“We’ve always had these issues of cultural appropriation in the industry, and I’ve always argued against that,” he added.

“As long as someone is passionate about food from any part of the world, as long as they love what they’re doing, then it should be celebrated.”

Acknowledging the rarity of this feat for Birmingham, Aktar Islam expressed his joy and gratitude, stating that he and his team had been overwhelmed with messages of congratulations. He highlighted the importance of this achievement in solidifying Birmingham’s status as a gastronomic destination.

Opheem’s recognition at the annual Michelin awards ceremony places it among the elite, with only six British restaurants receiving two Michelin stars this year.

Notably, it is the first in Birmingham to achieve this distinction and joins Gymkhana in Mayfair as the UK’s first Indian restaurants to earn two stars.

Opheem’s culinary approach blends traditional Indian flavors with global influences, such as using a Japanese charcoal grill instead of a traditional tandoor.

The restaurant also showcases British seasonal produce, sourcing ingredients from local independent producers whenever possible.

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