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Curry Chat => Lets Talk Curry => Topic started by: goncalo on March 19, 2014, 02:13 PM

Title: kushi balti house training review
Post by: goncalo on March 19, 2014, 02:13 PM
As some of you may know, Bengali Bob and I went on a training course that turned out to be a fiasco. The lengthy post that follows is just a review of the training as offered by Muhammed Ali Haydor at Kushi Birmingham, a well reputed BIR/Balti chef and a little bit of story.

Sometime in October 2013, I called Ali (aka Mohammed Ali Haydor, of the “Authentic Balti Curries” fame) who is also owner and Head Chef at the Kushi Balti House in Moseley, Birmingham and asked whether he was offering classes at this time. I think I took him by surprise as his reaction on the phone wasn’t a straight-forward yes, but this didn’t seem to be a problem, he seemed interested in offering the classes if there was interest from us. When I introduced myself, I explained I would be travelling from Ireland to attend the curry training and that there would be potentially another person interested in this training. He explained the training would be tailored to our needs and that it would be 50£ per person. At the time, I didn’t have confirmation from Robert (Bengali Bob), so before I said yes to Ali, I called Bob and we discussed what our goals were. Bob being the most experienced of the two of us, and a Kushi Veteran, wisely suggested we should stick to the essentials: Garam Masala (how he roasts it and what goes into it), Mix Powder, the pre-cooks (particularly aloo and veg in general) and watch the Base Gravy being made from the round up and try to make some of his curries from the menu and see how it compares to those made by Ali himself. We can then compare it to what he has on his book, which from Robert’s own experience is nowhere near the product he gets when he orders from the restaurant. So, settled, I called Ali and tell him me and Rob we are interested. I also explained exactly what we wanted to learn, as I wrote it down from an earlier phone call with Bob and further emphasized that seeing as I was going to fly over to UK for this learning experience and that would incur costs on the training, flights and hotel/stay, he assured me that it wouldn’t be a problem and that I would only need to give him a call one or two days before the date. As he was home at the time I called him, he asked me to call again the following day around 9pm so he could take the payment of the deposit over the phone at the restaurant. I called him again the following day and he does not get my phone call. Another day and he gets my call and tells me he wasn’t at the restaurant. 3-4 Days later and he finally I catch him at the restaurant and the deposit is finally paid. I’m at this point confident and book my flights, hotel and train to Cambridge.

Monday – 4th of November.

I meet Bob and we head to Kushi on Moseley Road. Ali asked us to be there for 13:00 and we arrive 2 mins earlier (happy days!) While passing in front of the restaurant we notice there is no light and we start to suspect Ali may not have arrived yet. Rob parks in a car park behind the restaurant and we knock kushi’s back door. No response. We head to the front door and we can see Ali behind the bar looking at some papers. As soon as he notices our presence, he comes over, opens the door, greets us and invites us to the restaurant. He then asks us to sit down at a rather unclean table with a relatively a stale smell permeating the air of the dining room and we have about 10 mins of small talk, about my trip, our learning goals and what not. He recognized Rob, who already had some “mixed experiences” with this business. I’m not going to spoil it for you and let him describe it if he feels like it. He also asked what how we heard about Kushi, why we are trying to learn to cook indian food. We describe our background, our skills. He quickly tells us to come to into the kitchen.

We walk into the kitchen and there was nothing on the stove already and the tandoor oven was off. As balti curries are traditionally eaten/served with naan bread, this seemed a bit odd. I thought this was all part of the “master training” of bringing a balti kitchen alive and making everything from scratch (in fact, ahead of the day, I was a little afraid I would arrive at the restaurant and find a base gravy boiling away, which would deprive us from seeing it being made from scratch.) The first thing Ali does is ask Rob immediately for the 50£ (I paid mine by card when ask for a deposit) which didn’t sound good at all. It wasn’t like we would be leaving without paying for it. Besides, he had my credit card number which he could always overcharge but this became clearer just after Bob walks into the kitchen.

First thing, the smell and cleanliness didn’t get much better. The floor actually felt dangerously slippery, which made me feel slightly uncomfortable. Ali started by opening several round spices containers and telling us about them. I thought this was a pointless exercise as both me and Rob were both fully aware of the individual spices and if he was focused enough, he would have picked it up from our chit-chat prior to the move into the kitchen and spare us a few moments. The only spice in there that I hadn’t used in cooking much was Nutmeg and Mace, then again. There was nothing new or more exotic there: no amchoor, anardana seeds, pimiento, rose petals. Only standard herbs, whole spices and ground spices (no mixed powder). Both me Rob had a whiff at the garam masala and it smelled extremely similar to the store bought one which the user ifindforu (IFFU) advocated on the forums – Jalpur GM (more on this later.)

Ali starts by handing out 3 sheets of paper with printed recipes. He tells us his plan “We are going to cook 2 curries and pilau rice today.” – hopes and dreams start to crumble, but we were still keeping it cool.

The recipes are: Chicken Mushroom, Chicken JalJul and Pilau Rice. Ali starts by filling up a pot with about 2 mugs of rice, washing it under the tap with about 3-4 water changes (same deal as in h4ppy-chris plain rice video.) He then brings the pot to the stove, adds the usual spices (green card, cumin seed, cloves, cassia bark, bay laurel – the most common bay leaf variety, I generally call it the european version.; star anis, etc), added about half chef spoon of ghee (if memory serves me well). In the mean time, he starts washing chicken and asks us to prepare the onions, ginger and garlic with the funky small serrated knifes that the bengali chefs seem to love. He also (in serious tone) asked us if we knew how to cut chicken (breasts) – again, his lack of focus shining through. He made the garlic ginger paste in the ratio of ginger 60:40 garlic. I was a bit surprised by this. I have been using either 50:50 or 60-70 garlic. He proceeded to give us a poorly explained theory: “If you use 60% garlic, the ginger takes over. If you use 60% ginger, it pushes the garlic flavour into the curry” – I don’t think this is particularly true, having tried his approach at home after watching Zaal’s video where chef and owner disagree on this, but it gave me some food for thought (mind the pun) while in Birmingham, considering that it was something that I’ve never really challenged or experimented much with since embarking on this ark. The rice was at the reduction stage and he adds some saffron strands to a ramekin with warm water, he then drops the saffron water and strands into the “rice pocket” and covers it with the rice previously spooned off. He then looked at us, with a certain gleam in the eye, stating he uses saffron on his pilau rice, which obviously sounded like pitch for how he distinguishes himself from it’s competitors (At this stage, I was still impressed. More on this later.) Ali leaves the pot of rice to steam on a low light and pulls a handi and a large (about 10-12?) frying pan and starts the two curries. The surprising factor on these curries was the use of mustard oil. He started the frying pan with a baghar: mustard oil, g&g, onions and the handi by just adding mustard oil and onions and adding the ginger at a later stage, after the onions had softened. While happened, Ali was chopping peppers. He then adds the garlic and ginger paste and he walks to the rear end of the kitchen. Shortly the kitchen is full of smoke and Bob who was closer to the handi, notices the garlic and ginger are burning and binding with the bottom of the handi. He immediately jumps back in the stove and mixes it as well as he could, scraping as much of the garlic residue burning at the bottom of the pan. This didn’t stop the cooking, of course, but emitted (for me at least) some pretty large red flags, but of course, we continued hoping for the best. No magic here. He then adds spices and proceeds with the recipes, which were almost hands off for the whole duration. This was well rehearsed, no magic there. A moment’s later he asks us “Did I add salt already?”, Rob and I looked unsure, but I don’t recall whether he added more salt or not. All I remember is that he didn’t try the food in front of us to figure out whether it needed salt or not. I noticed he wasn’t using the indian bay leaf as well, so I asked about it. He claimed that the one he was using was the indian variety and claimed “it’s all the same”. I didn’t want to get into the arguments so left it at that. A few moments later, he reminds himself that the rice pot was still on the hob and when it opens, it was quite clear the rice had burnt, not just on the bottom but sides too. Ali says “I must have touched the gas knob” which of course wasn’t the case as the fire was still at the low setting he switched to prior to the steaming stage. At this time, both meals are ready and Ali welcomes us into the restaurant, that he would be with us shortly. Rob tells Ali he wants a small portion only, I didn’t say a word as being portuguese, I grew up eating regular sized meals at lunch time that in Ireland and UK are considered dinners. Even at the light of all the shortcomings and disasters in the kitchen, we were still hopeful that there would be more to it. 1.5 hours had elapsed since our arrival til this time and me and Rob reflected on our experience until then. We weren’t quite so happy with the outcome, but sort of ashamed to be frontal and say it to Ali, who was quite a friendly person.

Approx. 20 mins since leaving the kitchen and Ali returns to the table with 3 small trays divided in 3 parts. 20% chicken mushroom, 20% chicken jaljul, 60% undercooked rice. It became clear that the extra time was spent cooking another batch of rice, which was very much al-dente by the time he served us. I asked for some water, which Ali provided, however, it did surprise me that he didn’t offer us a drink – be it water or a soft drink (We were at his restaurant after all.) We started eating and both curries were good, but no better than other non-BIR curries we both had. We were both surprised that the flavour of mustard oil wasn’t really coming through. We then finished eating our food and had a about 20-30 minutes of chat. Ali made it clear that what we had seen was what he had to teach (or should I say, display to) us by asking us what we thought. Bob and I mentioned our expectation was on learning take-away style and balti curries, that we were expecting to see some base gravy and the use of balti dishes. Ali mentioned that he had none ready and that if we are again in Birmingham he could give us another training (which, reading between the lines, meant paying another 100£) and I explained that I would only be staying that night and the following night. Ali then asked where was I staying and if we could come around the following day, that he could drop me then at the hotel as he would have base gravy ready and would be willing to show us how to cook a Balti curry and we could eat it there, which he meant we would be buying our meals and having the chance to be in the kitchen to watch them being cooked. Bob asked about the Garam Masala, Ali seemed reluctant to talk about it and then says it is a secret and he does not want to share and that he makes it at home but it all sounded like bullsh*t. Bob asked Ali for a sample, he acquiesced but gave us only about 2-3 TSPs and tells us that he has to roast more, that he has little left at the moment and that he can sell it to us in large quantities (another business opportunity attempt.) Ali then gets a call and shows us the way out, allowing us to escape through the back door. I realized that, unlike other cookery courses – which this one clearly was not – we are offered to take home the food we cooked, but in this case, we weren’t offered to take _anything_. Heck, we weren’t even offered a coffee after the meal. Walking outside, Bob makes a break for a cigarette next to his own car. We were chatting about how Ali was a bit of disappointment and about the next day and how disappointed we both were, but we were both still cheerful and hopeful for what was still to come (lesson with moike, essentially.) A couple mins later, just as we were about to head off, we see Ali coming out and he’s handling a bag with his stick blender and holding the handles of the handi where he cooked the chicken mushroom which he loads into a jeep parked next to Bob’s car. Bob asked Ali jokingly “are you bringing the left-overs home?, to which Ali replied “Yes, I’m taking it to my wife and kids”.

And that was it. Need a great way to make £100? Read above… :)

Bonus points:

Ali claimed Baghar is about hot oil + g&g. No spices. This one does not need much discussion, really.

Arriving at Bob’s home, we did a smell and taste comparison against jalpur GM and the sample Ali provided us with that he claimed to have been “home made”. The differences were almost negligible and we believed it was down to the box of Jalpur GM that Bob had at his home open for a while, hence less powerful. Other than that, we couldn’t really tell a difference.

He stresses that his garlic ginger paste should be 40% garlic and 60% ginger during the course but the recipes that he printed for us for, supposedly the dishes he cooked on the day, show the opposite. (on another forum, I was told that this is may actually be common practice, i.e the base gravy gets 60% ginger, but then at dish frying stage, you only add 40% ginger; however, we weren't doing BIR style curries, so this information in contrast with the printed recipes, was inconsistent.)

When I asked Ali why he used European bay, if there was any reason for it. He told me “It’s all the same, it’s all bay leaf“; On a subsequent phone call, the subject of bay leaf was discussed again and he laughed it off, suggesting yet again that I was wrong, “It’s all the same bay leaf.” he said.
Title: Re: kushi balti house training review
Post by: Garp on March 19, 2014, 02:30 PM
And your point is, caller?
Title: Re: kushi balti house training review
Post by: Peripatetic Phil on March 19, 2014, 02:48 PM
And your point is, caller?

Probably hit the re-dial button by mistake.  After all, "intelligent" and "'phone-in caller" is a fairly rare collocation, if indeed the concept exists at all.

** Phil.
Title: Re: kushi balti house training review
Post by: curryhell on March 19, 2014, 08:26 PM
Unlike some other sites, this site has not been reduced to the level of replicating others content to maintain interest or  create membership.  Besides, this is old news for any that have their finger on the pulse.  I question why all of a sudden we lowly ones should be so worthy  ::)
Title: Re: kushi balti house training review
Post by: goncalo on March 19, 2014, 09:08 PM
I think you are going off-topic there. If you would like to know why this has been posted elsewhere and only posted here now, feel free to send me a private message and I will be happy to clarify accordingly. This has been posted here for widespread of information on a scam curry training that myself and Bob have been victims of.
Title: Re: kushi balti house training review
Post by: Garp on March 19, 2014, 09:36 PM
Which happened early November - nice of you to let us know, so we didn't get scammed in the following five months :)
Title: Re: kushi balti house training review
Post by: goncalo on March 19, 2014, 09:46 PM
Better late than never.
Title: Re: kushi balti house training review
Post by: curryhell on March 19, 2014, 09:49 PM
Maybe to avoid my "off topic" comments some explanation should have been given in the first instance.  One can but wonder why all of a sudden after such a length of time you have decided to share information which is most definitely second hand, given its age  :-\
Whilst I try to remain on topic most of the time, I do struggle with "out of the blue" posts from people who passed over quite some time ago and ceased to participate here.  This isn't helped by reading comments and remarks elsewhere.  Isn't it surprising how quickly people forget where they started and those individuals who helped one along the way.  Human nature I suppose.  All part of climbing the BIR chef credibility ladder I suppose  ::)
Title: Re: kushi balti house training review
Post by: goncalo on March 19, 2014, 11:02 PM
I suppose it's my prerogative when and where I publish information, regardless of my intents which I am entitled to omit and/or include if I so feel like. Now that that is out of the way, I am glad you are observant and understand I went on hiatus on this community, while I have remained active elsewhere. One doesn't need to go to a different topic to find out reasons for why I have not felt like participating here.

I can give you specifics without bothering myself to find the topics in which this occurred: I created a post where I was keeping my progress, in the form of a log. I'd normally post there my progress on trying to crack a jalfrezi and bombay aloo, instead of bombing new topics in the pictures section, given the rate at which I was cooking curries at the time and which would potentially drag out some of the other members pictures from the frontpage - I really didn't wanted to be in that position, I was more interested in my journey than on featuring the frontpage and it was important for me to keep a log while leveraging from feedback and/or opinions from other members of this community. You have been very forthcoming in noticing and because you are the leader of this community, you felt entitled to post a comment stating that "cr0 was turning to be a blogging platform" in your own wording in some follow-up comment in a different thread, which, again I am not bothered to try and find;  Garp has been on a number of occasions very forth coming in trolling every comment I make on here as well. I take it as a personal compliment in that he finds I am worth his time and effort, even though his comments suggest otherwise. Fair play.  ::)

So, yeah, that may shed some light into my decisions to be absent. And with regards to where I started or who helped me, that is besides the point, too.
Title: Re: kushi balti house training review
Post by: loveitspicy on March 20, 2014, 07:34 AM
Ive just sat and read this post and i'm wondering why why why????

Why didn't you post it earlier and call it by its name training scam at the Kushi.......

best, Rich
Title: Re: kushi balti house training review
Post by: chef888 on March 20, 2014, 08:18 AM
i just sat and read the post with my morning coffee as my newspaper as yet not arrived but i,m in the same thinking as loveitspicey if it happened in November been better to warn us all of it within in say a week may be 2 WEEKS at the latest , this is like bolting the stable door after the horse as gone and you have got a post card from him telling you how sunny Florida can be lol
Title: Re: kushi balti house training review
Post by: goncalo on March 20, 2014, 12:57 PM
As it is apparently old news, or "second hand news", both loveitspicy and ivan888, members of the other forum, certainly may have also noticed that I kept postponing the publishing of the review because I spent 3 months preparing for interviews, or as I sometimes called it 'tough exams', but this is not second hand news, right?  ::)

Posting the review was delayed until the 31st of January of the following year. There are things that have taken more precedence than writing a review of a training course. We both had already explained, back in November, that the training at Kushi was a fiasco in comments before the review was published, but I felt the need to provide a lengthy story, just so it doesn't come across as slander without facts to back it up and also for the inside perspective. After I posted my write up elsewhere, I was under the impression that Bob would write his own review of the training, using his own wording and view points, so I didn't bothered to post mine here. As it didn't happen, I pinged him recently if he would be OK with posting this here too and he agreed.

So, in short: It is a scam, whether it is late news for you or not. I also don't think I need to title this as "scam", as the review speaks for itself.
Title: Re: kushi balti house training review
Post by: Garp on March 20, 2014, 01:17 PM
I have nothing against you, other than you talk pish a lot. I actually thought you were Irish, not Portugese, so maybe that explains some things.

As I remember, you posted a pic of a dish on the front page which, after consulting with Mrs G, I decided to say something like it looked disgusting. Perhaps I shouldn't have said that. Mrs G actually said that it looked like a little row of dogs jobbies  :)

Title: Re: kushi balti house training review
Post by: goncalo on March 20, 2014, 02:05 PM
Unless by PM you mean "public message", you must have me confused, or perhaps you need to visit a specsavers as I haven't sent you any message privately - in fact, had I not authored this topic, I wouldn't even bother to read your message as you are in the ignore list for quite a few months now. But please, make it public. Get that out of your system.  ::)
Title: Re: kushi balti house training review
Post by: George on March 20, 2014, 05:40 PM
As some of you may know, Bengali Bob and I went on a training course that turned out to be a fiasco. The lengthy post that follows is just a review of the training as offered by Muhammed Ali Haydor at Kushi Birmingham, a well reputed BIR/Balti chef and a little bit of story.

Many thanks for your very interesting and helpful review. It may have been a while ago but it's no less interesting. For him to have made £100 from that training is (self-moderated).

I can't understand why such an interesting post/thread has attracted any criticism at all.
Title: Re: kushi balti house training review
Post by: Secret Santa on March 20, 2014, 06:09 PM
For those of us who don't frequent the other inferior curry forums I found it quite informative if a little late. It still serves to warn anyone else who might consider such a venture in the future.

I think the bigger con is the Kushi balti book which while producing some decent curries does not match the standard that can be had in the restaurant apparently.

Title: Re: kushi balti house training review
Post by: goncalo on March 20, 2014, 06:18 PM
Many thanks for your very interesting and helpful review. It may have been a while ago but it's no less interesting. For him to have made £100 from that training is (self-moderated).

You're welcome George. I think his business isn't doing too well. We passed in front of it the following days and there was no one sitting in, but then again, it was a tuesday. However, in light of him saying "I have no competition", we couldn't help but chuckle at the facts, when shabab and adil were always busy (even on a Monday.) and not to mention the good stuff seems to be happening on Sparkhill and not on Moseley road (which is a bit of a dreary area, if I may add)

I am sure he is not making that much on a day working in his day job when you subtract the running costs of his establishment, so it's no wonder he took a massive gamble and it worked out for him. It's a big shame. I wish he had been more like Zaal.

The good news was that, at the end of this course we went into another TA that Bob was friends with the owner and he welcomed us both into their kitchen and made us some tikka starter with a tamarind sauce and fresh green chillies which they called "imli imli" (imli being the name for tamarind) for free which was pukka and the following day, we had a full day of training with a top notch BIR chef, which I believe the videos have already been posted by Bob. I would have loved to make a write up of that day in greater detail and expose further information about the balti triangle and some pictures of adil/shabab, but I don't think there is much point or personal benefit to be gained. Not that I didn't expect harsh criticism and/or egos to struck, but hey, if all the effort into writing this and sharing it here and elsewhere helps 2 other persons to decide not to take the training at the kushi restaurant, then it was worth it - either way, it's done and dusted. Happy currying!
Title: Re: kushi balti house training review
Post by: mickdabass on March 21, 2014, 09:17 AM
Thanks for the info Goncalo.

Sounds to me like the kushi has seen better days. It has put me off ever wanting to buy any food off them with that kind of attitude.

I too am not particularly bothered by the delay in you publishing your report.
Its all interesting reading anyway

Regards

Mick
Title: Re: kushi balti house training review
Post by: Secret Santa on March 21, 2014, 11:21 AM
we had a full day of training with a top notch BIR chef, which I believe the videos have already been posted by Bob. I would have loved to make a write up of that day in greater detail and expose further information about the balti triangle and some pictures of adil/shabab, but I don't think there is much point or personal benefit to be gained.

I can't speak for anyone else goncalo but I would love to see a write up of that day. I dare say there's something for us all in there somewhere but we'll never know if you don't publish.
Title: Re: kushi balti house training review
Post by: Adeypayne on March 21, 2014, 06:36 PM
Goncalo. If there is to be a Next time,come to Boston mate! Where we will do it properly, step by step, no language barriers, no confusion. The Invitation is open :)
Title: Re: kushi balti house training review
Post by: Bengali Bob on March 23, 2014, 04:25 PM
Excellent report Gongalo

Should add that most of the delay posting on here was down to me, who had planned to re-visit the Kushi, and then contribute to the write-up based on this extra visit.  Never got around to going back though.  I will some time.

Rob  :)