Mohammad Ajman Miah, better known as Tommy Miah, is an internationally renowned Bangladeshi-born British celebrity chef, owner of the award-winning Raj Restaurant and Tommy Miah’s Hospitality Management Institute. He now wants to made Bangladeshi youths skilled in the hospitality management sector and trying to brand Bangladeshi cuisine in the international arena, he said in an exclusive interview with PX.
How are you? We know about the glorious career you have. Please tell us a little about your journey to become a star chef?
Well, I went to my parents in 1965 from a village of Moulvibazar in Sylhet during East Pakistan. I went to London where I did my study. I studied there from Junior School to secondary school. From the age of 14 I started working part time in a restaurant for pocket money. I didn’t know anything about cooking or anything then. My father was working in a factory and it wasn’t enough income. To support my dad, my mother and my brothers and sisters I started working in a resturant and from there my interest for cooking grew. I felt this would be something I wanted to do.
Then how this passion grow?
At the age of 16 I left school and didn’t even sit for my exam because I just wanted to get out and become a cook. So this is what happened, I left school and started working in the restaurant full time because I learned the business. Within a few months. I was promoted to be a chef in Birmingham. I was ambitious and I see people do great in the career. So, if they can do it there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be doing it. I should be able to do it good if I work hard, so obviously this is what happened.
Is there anyone who has been an inspiration for you while starting your career?
My mom taught me a lot of things about cooking. I love the curries we used to eat in childhood. She always encouraged me for cooking.
What was the driving force for you to join cuisine career?
Working in catering industry I learned and liked it. I’ve been very hard-working and it was like I worked overtime every day. I’ve work on that restaurant for two years, then I decided I need to go to the next level. So I decided I want to get into the restaurant business. Though I’ve saved some money but it was not enough to open a fully-fledged restaurant on my own. I need to take partners so at the time I looked around Birmingham and other places and eventually. I had a partner then who wanted to open a join-ventured restaurant with me and we found a place to build our restaurant in Edinburgh, Scotland. Being brought up in Birmingham and to move somewhere unknown is difficult. So I decided I’m going to take that risk and move because I want a restaurant anyway.
How do you feel about the future of cuisine industry in Bangladesh?
Industry will grow. It’s a young industry and a lot of work to be done yet, mainly in the hospitality management sector. If hospitality industry nurtured properly it will grow globally as it is a huge demand especially now after this pandemic people want good and trustworthy service. Our food and eating habits changed fast and pandemic also influenced it. People now have many apps like food panda and others by which they can get the food delivered in their home. So, people are ordering more than going out. Thus the eating habit has changed, and we have to cope-up with that and deliver.
What will be your suggestions for new and upcoming cooks? How can they do better in their career?
Well I think the dedication, commitment and honesty and if you have all that then you can’t go wrong. This is very important in this industry. Many are learning cooking from YouTube and they also have the option of selling their foods from home by new apps. Many are now joining in the culinary industry than before. But, they need to be more skilled. It is very important to be skilled. In our institution we teach the students hospitality management and serving skills too with cooking. As the industry developed, they must learn other basic skills with cooking.
You’ve been in many countries. How the Culinary industry of Bangladesh is compared to other countries?
Obviously we’re a young country and I think our country is younger in terms of culinary industry than other countries. But, we’re making swift progress. Especially, In Asian countries we are doing well. When I came back in Bangladesh after the liberation war, Dhaka was a very young city. That time, there wasn’t any Bangladeshi restaurant here. I then thought it can’t be because every country needs to promote its culture including food culture. So, I started the first Bangladeshi cuisine based restaurant or to say I am the first to open a Bangladeshi restaurant in the country. Cooking industry is an ever-growing industry all over the world and it gained pace now in Bangladesh. I mean, if you were to ask me 20 years ago that I would become successful in E-Commerce platform I would say you’re joking. But now you see the whole scenario changed. And, we have youths who’re coming into the cuisine industry and they are very sharp. Sharper than youths of our time and they are very fast. This industry will continue to grow because of the sharp contribution of youths.
What are your next plans in this sector?
Next plan actually you don’t know what may happen. But, there are a lot of projects on the go. Every day I walk, have my breakfast and then come to the office. This is very important because youths in the food industry needs to be skilled. Students of my institute goes to different places and do well. I like to work with them. I’m also thinking to brand Bangladeshi famous food abroad. One of which is our ‘Hilsa fish’. It can easily be one of world’s most delicious fish item. But’ its huge amount of fishbone averts it to be tasted by foreigners. I like to work with recipes so after researching on it I’ve found out that if you steam it for 15 hours the fish bones become melted. So, without the fish bones we can serve it more to the foreign customers.
We know Ramadan is coming. Will you please share with us your any of your memories of Ramadan?
I brought up mostly in UK. But, whenever I stayed in Bangladesh we used to Iftar together. My mother and sometimes my grandmother used to cook different tasty items.
Final question, what is your favourite dish?
I’ve been a vegetarian for 32 years. I take fish sometimes for protein. That’s all I do. I’m not into too hot spicy food, sort of medium spice. I take a drink for dinner but, when I like Bangladeshi curries very much.