A former Northampton College catering student will have the chance to represent the town in the Houses of Parliament having been put forward to defend Saffrons crown in the 2018 Tiffin Cup.
Mohammad Shajahan, aged 22, was taken on as an apprentice by the award-winning Castilian Street restaurant four years ago. He has gone on to work alongside executive chef Bodrul Islam and will now look to emulate his mentor’s success in the annual parliamentary search to find the nation’s best South Asian cuisine.
Saffron was named the winner of the 2016 competition, with Mr Islam’s dish of lime and ginger sea bass earning widespread acclaim from expert judges including TV chef Ainsley Harriott.
Having been put forward by Andrew Lewer, Conservative MP for Northampton South, Saffron will look to defend its crown (the competition was not held in 2017 due to the General Election) with Mr Shajahan given the responsibility to come up with a new dish for the cook-off in Westminster.
He said: "Having the chance to defend Saffron’s title is a huge honour. The Tiffin Cup is arguably the pinnacle of any curry chef’s career and I have been given the responsibility after just three years in the trade.
"I’m very grateful for Saffron for putting their faith in me and I hope I can do the restaurant justice. I have learnt so much in the last three years and I will be working hard to put the skills I have picked up both at Northampton College and in the kitchen at Saffron into practice on the biggest possible stage."
Asian restaurants across the country are facing a recruitment crisis, with immigration laws making it difficult to attract chefs from their homeland.
Saffron owner Naz Islam has pledged to invest in training a new generation of young chefs to step in and has built strong links with Northampton College to encourage more young people to get into cookery.
The Tiffin Cup is awarded by the Tiffin Club of MPs, formed in 2006. The aim is not only to applaud the quality of South Asian food in Britain but also to raise much-needed money for charity.
Pat Brennan-Barrett, principal of Northampton College, said: "I’m delighted to see Mohammad doing so well in his chosen career and to have this opportunity so soon after leaving us is a huge testimony to both his hard work and the quality of teaching here at the college."
The 2016 triumph was the first time a Northampton restaurant had ever won the competition.
Andrew Lewer MP said: "It was brilliant to see Saffron win in 2016 and that result has really put the restaurant and Northampton town centre on the map. Hopefully Mohammad can follow in Bodrul’s footsteps and do us proud once again.
The Grand Final of this year’s Tiffin Cup will be held in the House of Commons on Tuesday. 27 March.