Opheem, Indian restaurant nestled in the heart of Birmingham, has carved its name in culinary history despite its kitchen staff consisting of just one Indian chef among its team of 15.
Chef and owner Aktar Islam, a native of Aston, expressed profound gratitude for the prestigious honor, describing it as “an incredible honor” that underscores the restaurant’s commitment to excellence.
Islam’s culinary journey traces back three decades when he was expelled from school and began working at his father’s curry restaurant. The son of Bangladeshi immigrants, he has risen to become a Michelin-starred chef, epitomizing the opportunities available within the culinary industry for individuals from diverse backgrounds.
Opheem, renowned for its “progressive Indian cuisine,” opened its doors in England’s curry capital in 2018, attracting celebrities such as Michael Bublé and Gary Barlow.
During an emotional acceptance speech at the annual Michelin awards ceremony, Islam reflected on his journey and emphasized the inclusivity of the culinary industry. He stated, “Fine food should have nothing to do with ‘ethnicity’ or ‘the color of your skin,'” stressing that passion for food transcends cultural boundaries.
“We’ve always had these issues of cultural appropriation in the industry, and I’ve always argued against that,” Islam 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.”
Opheem’s team boasts diversity, comprising individuals from various backgrounds who share a common passion for food and hospitality.
Acknowledging the rarity of Opheem’s achievement for Birmingham, Islam expressed joy and gratitude, highlighting the overwhelming support received from well-wishers. This recognition solidifies Birmingham’s status as a gastronomic destination and underscores the city’s thriving culinary scene.
Opheem’s culinary approach blends traditional Indian flavors with global influences, showcasing creativity and innovation. Notably, the restaurant employs a Japanese charcoal grill instead of a traditional tandoor, exemplifying its commitment to pushing culinary boundaries.
The restaurant also prioritizes sourcing ingredients from local independent producers, showcasing British seasonal produce in its dishes.
Opheem’s recognition at the Michelin awards ceremony places it among the elite, with only six British restaurants receiving two Michelin stars this year. As the first in Birmingham to achieve this distinction, Opheem joins the ranks of Gymkhana in Mayfair as the UK’s pioneering Indian restaurants to earn two stars, solidifying its place in the culinary hall of fame.