The Halal Food Festival is the world’s largest event where each and every morsel is halal-accredited. And credit for pulling together a programme with such wide-reaching appeal must go to founder Imran Kauser and director Noman Khawaja.
With a multicultural line-up and goodies from all over the globe, it really matters not whether you’re Muslim. The Halal Food Festival concerns itself more with the sheer joy of sharing great food with fellow gourmets.
It’s a modern message which makes perfect sense; using food to basically say, ‘Hey, forget any religious and cultural differences, let’s all eat!’ And, after a good chinwag with Imran, I, for one, can’t wait to tuck in!
Doctor and dentist to large-scale food festival organisers? What on earth possessed you to make the leap – and should we expect the Halal Food Festival to be all health food and apples?
Not at all! Noman and I are massive foodies, and often visit the many brilliant UK food festivals. All-too often we were disappointed and frustrated at the extreme lack of halal provision and felt that we were really missing out on a huge array of delicious food that this country has to offer.
Events Director Noman coined the pleasing term ‘Haloodies’ for the folks you’re looking to attract – what makes a Haloodie?
A ‘Haloodie’ is a compound term for ‘halal foodies’ – anyone who loves great food which additionally happens to be halal. You don’t have to be a Muslim to be a ‘Haloodie’!
What sparked the idea and initially inspired the Halal Food Festival?
Noman and I felt that other Muslims must share our thinking on the lack of premium halal products at food festivals, which probably explains why so few of us attend them. We felt it was time to take charge and organise a well-overdue event where Muslims (and everyone else!) can enjoy absolutely everything on offer without having to worry about checking labels.
We want to recognise that Muslim society in the UK has evolved in its needs and aspirations and is moving towards high quality healthy food and products. Our aim is simple; to introduce the very best in halal international cuisine and lifestyle to Britain.
The hook is clearly the halal assurance, but why else should food lovers make a date with the Halal Food Festival over the raft of other edible events out there?
Where do we begin?! We have a fantastic line up of celebrity chefs doing demos; Jean Christophe Novelli, ‘Incredible Spiceman’ Cyrus Todiwala, Cinnamon Kitchen’s Abdul Yaseen, and GBBO contestant Ali Imdad, to name a few. Visitors will also be able to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty with cook-along masterclasses led by the same chefs.
The festival will also feature a live music stage featuring ‘the Ed Sheeran and Michael Buble of the Islamic World’, Saif Adam and Mesut Kurtis. There’s street food from the likes of Rola Wala and Bhangra Burger, Cinnamon Kitchen’s JoHo SoHo pop-up restaurant, and an Artisan Producers’ Market featuring Aneesh Popat’s water ganache chocolates. We’re family friendly, too – with a ‘Little Haloodies Zone‘.
Organising any festival is a huge task. Tell us about the pressures, pitfalls, issues and achievements – the whole rollercoaster ride.
When I came up with the idea of putting together the festival, I didn’t pause to consider logistics. Instead, I focused on what I felt would draw people in and make them love the festival. We took on a consultant who told us it would take at least a year to put together.
Booking talent and building the Live Demo Kitchen and Cooking School were our first tasks. Then Events Director Noman got going, developing the idea of the Artisan and Lifestyle areas. He’s really been the engine that has kept the whole festival driving forwards.
There have been many pressures – broken promises, deals that fell at the last minute, and rising costs. Despite all the setbacks, I never doubted that we could make the idea a reality.
Events like this need strong support – who’s been instrumental in their involvement so far?
My wife Farah has been a source of inspiration and reality, and has put so much emotional energy into the project… in addition to managing our second child who came just a few months ago! We also have a very effective team dealing with sales, logistics, PR and branding.
Events of this scale require significant input, and we have been lucky to have built a small team who have been relentless in supporting us because they believe in what we are doing.
The two main features – the Live Demo Kitchen and Cooking School. To have the most talented chefs in the UK making and teaching their creations in front of a live audience with halal ingredients will be a first.
You’re keen to emphasise that this is not a one-off, but the start of something much bigger. Going forward, what’s the ultimate vision for the Halal Food Festival?
We hope that, with the support of Haloodies, this becomes an annual event which grows and improves each year! We also plan to take the concept abroad where there are significant Muslim populations.
Another aim is to educate the general population on the benefits of halal. There’s a significant misconception that halal merely relates to the method of slaughter, when in fact it also encapsulates animal welfare and wholesomeness.
We’d also like Haloodies to be heard when it comes to modern food supply chain issues. Stunning, intensive farming, food additives and GM food concerns all require interpretation and clarification – we need to work to a practical definition of ‘halal’ across these areas.
How can eager Haloodies connect with you ahead of the event next weekend?