World Curry Festival aims to be 'Olympics of curry'

Celebrity chef Amir Iqbal from Pakistan preparing a dish during World Curry Festival in Penang on January 30. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Hasnoor Hussain, February 9, 2015.

An exclusive interview with Zulfi Karim, founder & CEO of World Curry Festival, which was a main attraction at the 6th halal Penang conference last month.

TMI: How did you come up with the concept of the World Curry Festival (WCF)?

ZK: I have worked in the event industry for many years so the concept of bringing people together through music and film has been part of my life. Something I enjoyed was food and eating out.

The passion for food and love for events was a match made in heaven.In 2010, it was 200 years since the first curry house opened in the UK, that was my eureka moment. Celebration of 200 years and the curry festival was born.

TMI: What is the World Curry Festival about and what are your objectives?

ZK: WCF is about the coming together of people of all cultures, creeds and races in a celebration of something we all love and share. The love for curry.

(Our) objectives are to create a brand which becomes recognised as the Olympics of curry. To take the brand around the world and for it to be recognised as the authority in curry. It is aimed at both businesses and consumers alike. To make it fun, challenging and innovative.

TMI: Is the WCF about fine dining, mass affluent or the masses?

ZK: WCF is about authenticity, which is the origin of recipes, ingredients and cooking methods that have influenced communities and have become part of a culture.

The WCF movement aims to trace the origins of these cultures and through them, celebrate diversity. We aim to bring traditional methods and styles into modern day life and lifestyles. We started small but hope to influence the masses. Everybody should be able to experience fine dining in the comfort of their homes.

TMI: Food is a great ambassador and bridge builder to countries, what is the WCF message to people and places not on friendly terms.

ZK: Through the WCF movement from the outset, our vision was to bring the world together through food which we call gastro diplomacy. During last five years we have brought together figureheads from America, Israel, Pakistan, Great Britain together at the WCF.

We have also worked at the community level with mosques, synagogues and churches. Our message would be let's come join and break roti together.

TMI: The WCF was held for the first time in Asia, why did you choose Penang?

ZK: I met Datuk Malik in the UK last year over dinner and heard first hand his ambitions for Penang. There was a great deal of synergy between the two. Also I was impressed by his ambition for Penang to become a global halal hub (the sunshine helps!).

TMI: What were some of the important takeaways from WCF in Penang?

ZK: First, the friendly people, the warmth hospitality was infectious by the people of Penang.

Second, the "can do" attitude from the government makes doing business's easier.

And third, the potential to reach the Asean region is very attractive.

TMI: How do you choose your chefs for WCF?

ZK: Our chefs need to have a passion for authentic food, local produce and ingredients and above all, have fun. Being the best in their areas also helps.

TMI: How is WCF different than the “halal-foodies” events that are taking place in London, Toronto, Chicago, etc?

ZK: We are a movement which focuses on curries from around the world. We teach people to cook from scratch. We celebrate diversity. We bring cultures and people together from around the world. Our focus is P2P - people to people.

TMI: How important is the halal concept for WCF?

ZK: Halal for me means (being) ethical. The term halal is misunderstood and it is yours and my duty to make sure we communicate effectively the meaning of halal. For WCF, that means how we produce, source and cook the food that we serve. How we conduct our business affairs and how we treat others and the planet. This will form part of our key objectives.

TMI: Where do you see the WCF five years from now?

ZK: For the festival to have a presence in all the continents, to have made an impact through our global gastro diplomacy movement. To have reached the hearts, minds and stomachs of millions of people. - February 9, 2015.

Source : http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/features/article/world-curry-festival-will-be-olympics-of-curry