British Kebab Awards 2024: new Greek, Kosher and Lebanese categories, but bizarrely no Turkish

The countdown has begun for this year’s British Kebab Awards where dozens of kebab outlets from across the United Kingdom will be aiming to win one of the 20 coveted titles up for grabs, including Chef of the Year, Best Takeaway, and Best Newcomer.

Sponsored by Just Eat, each year this hotly anticipated, glamorous gala event brings together industry leaders, food influencers, and kebab enthusiasts.

All tickets have sold out for this year’s event, where an estimated 1,000 guests will be in attendance for the awards ceremony at the Park Plaza Westminster Hotel on Tuesday 27 February.

Now in its twelfth year, the British Kebab Awards a firm part of London’s social calendar, they have also put the kebab sector firmly on the culinary and commercial map through its annual celebration and recognition of the finest in the industry.

According to the Kebab Alliance, the sector is now worth £2.8 billion to the British economy, while employing some 200,000 people in over 17,000 kebab shops of all shapes and sizes.

These impressive stats are perhaps why so many politicians, including the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, publicly back the British Kebab Awards (BKA). The endorsements are not just in words, but through in-person appearances as Members of Parliament champion their local constituency kebab shop when shortlisted.

There is already a buzz in the media about the BKA 2024 finalists, which were announced last month.

Commenting on this year’s event, BKA founder and restaurateur İbrahim Doğuş said: “The 12th British Kebab Awards shortlist is a testament to the culinary excellence and innovation within the kebab industry. It’s an honour to recognize and celebrate the outstanding contributions of these establishments that have impressed our discerning panel of judges.

His views were echoed by successful restaurateur Önder Şahan, a former BKA winner whose portfolio of eateries include the Tas chain and Southwark’s Ev Restaurant, which is up for the Best Value Restaurant 2024 award.

“Being shortlisted for the British Kebab Awards is a tremendous achievement, reflecting the dedication and passion of our team in delivering an exceptional kebab experience. We are excited to be part of this esteemed list and look forward to the awards ceremony.”

BKA’s interesting mix of judges

The shortlist for each category is determined by an interesting and somewhat random group of judges that include politicians, media presenters, a few culinary experts and those involved in the wider kebab sector.

BKA judges for the last few years have included radio presenter James O’Brien, British actor and broadcaster Adil Ray OBE, Octopus Energy Group CEO Greg Jackson, former British Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi, Glasgow Central MP Alison Thewliss, American policy expert Matt Browne, David Galman, the Sales Director at Galliard Homes, and, in 2024, first-time BKA judge David Neal, whose day job is the Independent Chief Inspectors of Borders and Immigration.

While all are “distinguished” in their fields, it would be a hard stretch to believe each of the above named judges are, as the BKA press announcement for this year’s shortlist claims, “experts in the culinary field.”

Yet this ad hoc mix certainly adds to the unorthodox style and charm of the kebab awards which, in its own words, highlights “the outstanding contributions of establishments that have elevated the kebab experience to new heights. From time-honoured traditional recipes to cutting-edge innovative fusions, the shortlisted candidates epitomize the pinnacle of the kebab industry.”

Three new controversial award categories for 2024

For the 2024 awards, the BKA organisers have introduced three new categories: Best Greek Restaurant and/or Takeaway; Best Kosher Shawarma Restaurant and/or Takeaway; and Best Lebanese Restaurant and/or Takeaway.

Controversially, there is no category for Turkish restaurants, despite British Turks being at the forefront of the sector. Other ethnic groups who are significant players in the UK kebab scene, such as Iranians, Kurds, Indians, and Pakistanis, will no doubt also feel disappointed there is no dedicated category for them.

We asked BKA why they felt the need to create these three new categories, while excluding the rest. A BKA spokesperson told T-VINE:

“The British Kebab Awards 2024 reflect the vibrant mosaic of the industry, with Turkish and Kurdish-owned businesses playing a pivotal role. The inclusion of Greek, Lebanese, and Kosher themes, as well as the initiation of TURTA awards for Turkish restaurants, signifies a purposeful move towards embracing the diversity inherent in the kebab landscape.

“By acknowledging the contributions of various communities, these additions underscore a commitment to inclusivity and a celebration of the multitude of flavours and cultures shaping the British kebab scene.”

For some British Turks, this development isn’t the only controversy to surround the BKA. The money annually raised from the awards gala helps to fund the work of the Centre for Turkey Studies (CEFTUS), which Mr Doğuş, who is also a Labour politician, runs.

The Labour Lambeth councillor and long-time Kurdish activist launched CEFTUS in 2011 as an “impartial” think tank on Turkiye, organising events with speakers from across the Turkish political spectrum. However, increasingly, its choice of topics and panellists seem to present Turkiye in a negative light.

It’s prompted some CEFTUS critics to refer to the organisation as the ‘Centre for Anti-Turkey Studies’, whilst Turkish political establishment figures and commentators have stepped away from the platform. Various British Turkish and Turkish Cypriot community leaders and activists have also told T-VINE they feel the kebab sector’s annual awards should not be funding an anti-Turkiye lobby.

For now the BKA remains as popular as ever with the industry, who are perhaps unaware or indifferent to its more controversial, political side.


Main image, top, of adana kebab cooking on the BBQ. Photo © Guven Demir / iStock