Photography: Jason Moore
Name: Chef Aktar Islam
Location: Birmingham, UK
Social Media: Facebook – Aktar Islam / Instagram – aktar_islam
Aktar Islam had a solid grounding in the hospitality industry working at his father’s restaurant, The Indian Palace in Birmingham, from the age of 13. His life-long passion for food grew from there, as did his creativity and following.
Crowned winner of the F-Word TV show in 2009 when he was Head Chef of Lasan, Aktar was propelled to a much wider audience and further still when he appeared on Great British Menu (three times to date) and won! Aktar is still the reigning champion for the Midlands.
Now pushing the boundaries with Indian flavours combined with contemporary and traditional techniques at his first restaurant Opheem, he recently announced a second solo project, Legna, opening in his home town of Birmingham later this year. Aktar continues to indulge the senses with delicious food and inspiring interiors, and we’re delighted he’s our Chef Works Chef of the Month this October (… oh, and he’s just got a puppy called Bailey – check out his Insta!).
1. Your restaurant/business
Opheem Restaurant, 48 Summer Row, Birmingham B3 1JJ, UK.
2. Describe your kitchen
A modern open-plan kitchen, with views into the main dining room which leads to our stunning bar and private dining space.
3. Favourite Chef Works item and why
I’d say the Berkeley Bib Apron in Jet Black (ABS01-JBK). I really like this style as it’s quite edgy and relaxed and I feel that sort of represents my food too. Obviously, denim is a hard-wearing fabric, so that makes it really practical for day-to-day use.
4. First job?
My first job was helping my father at his restaurant when I was 13 years old. It was great to be able to help out and learn about the family business. Who knew that it would turn into a life-long passion and deliver so much joy?
5. Favourite cookbook?
11 Madison Park by Chef Daniel Humm & Will Guidara. I love the recipes and just the way it is shot. The images are so crisp and beautifully arranged.
6. Your awards?
I won The F Word in 2009 and did three series of Great British Menu and cooked the fish course at the final banquet.
7. Your cooking inspiration?
My mother inspired me to take up cooking at an early age and what I learned from her I still use today. I’ll often pop over to pick her brains about ideas that I’m working on.
8. Your speciality dish?
I don’t have a speciality dish,I guess for me it’s more a style. I feel that I have quite a unique approach to Indian food and the way it’s combined with modern techniques and British ingredients.
9. Favourite dish to eat?
My all time favourite meal is a good old Sunday roast… life’s simple pleasures are always the best.
10. Weirdest thing you ever ate?
A few years back I was in Argentina and I ordered Chinchilune; the small intestine from beef cattle. They cook it with whatever was in the intestine at the time. Let’s just say it’s not something I’ll be ordering again.
11. Favourite ice cream flavour?
I love beetroot ice cream… it’s incredible with cheese.
12. Favourite drink?
I’m definitely a Gin man, my favourite is a Nordes or Monkey 47.
13. Favourite wine?
I like a good Albarinho or Malbec, they’re both wines that are great with food and easy to drink on their own.
14. Who would you most like to cook for?
I’m quite lucky as I’ve cooked for some incredible people over the years, including my childhood hero Arnold Schwarzenegger.
15. And who would you least like to cook for?
It’s a tough one… I’m a lover not a fighter, so I’ll happily cook for anyone that wants to experience what I do.
16. Favourite things to do when not cooking?
I like to spend time with my son or travel the world and eat what others cook for me!
17. Your latest project?
My current project is Opheem in Birmingham. It’s my first solo restaurant and is also a signature restaurant only serving food that is created by me. Keep a lookout for my next project Legna, coming soon!
18. Favourite city and why?
I love Birmingham as it’s home and the people here are so supportive. It’s a great city with so much to offer and is getting better day-by-day.
19. Your greatest indulgence?
I love truffle, I’ll have it on almost anything and then combined with cheese it’s heaven!
20. And finally, your all-time best culinary tip?
Best tip for any cook is to keep trying as practice only makes things better.