National Curry Week was started in 1998 to recognise the British love of curry and raise money for charity. In the week that sees us celebrating the 15th anniversary of this popular event, Gayle McBain talks to Bolton’s very own curry queen Anjali Pathak.
She was born into the famous Bolton Patak curry dynasty, but Anjali Pathak was never forced to join the business. Growing up in Heaton, Anjali was surrounded by pickles, pastes and spices — and her love of Indian food was born.
However open-minded her parents were about their daughter’s plans for a career, it was somewhat inevitable that — with many a school holiday spent at the Pataks factory in Leigh — this ambitious young woman would follow in the footsteps of her parents. “They were not the stereotypical Indian parents who wanted their children to go into medicine or engineering. They were happy for us to do what we wanted to do,” said 31-year-old Anjali, who has two brothers, Neeraj aged 34 and 32-year-old Nayan.
Her parents, 60-year-old Kirit and 56-year-old Meena had followed Kirit’s own parents into the business, but there was never any compulsion for the grandchildren to do the same. Yet after completing their university studies, all three decided it was the career path for them and Patak’s became a true family business.
Anjali was educated at Clevelands Preparatory School and then moved on to Bolton School — and it was while she was a young girl she learned the work ethic that has served her so well. “Rather than get babysitters during the school holidays our parents took us to the factory. As we got older, the more interested we got in the business,” said Anjali who studied at Salford University and moved two years ago, from Markland Hill to London.
While at university — Anjali shared student digs in Salford — she indulged her love for cooking Indian food and made much appreciated meals for all her friends. “It didn’t seem like work to me. It was something I was used to and enjoyed and my friends seemed to enjoy it too,” said Anjali, now a chef.
Although the Patak business was sold to AB Foods in 2007, Anjali is still the brand’s ambassador. She has a lovely boyfriend but has no plans to marry or have children just yet — although many of her friends back in Bolton are now settled down with families.
She has a love for life and work that is evident and the desire her grandparents had, to bring their favourite foods to the enthusiastic British people, is a big influence in Anjali’s life. Her grandparents, Laxmishanker and Shanta came to England from Kenya in 1950 with just £5 to their name. Mrs Pathak — the h was dropped in the name to make it easier to pronounce — started making Indian snacks, sweets and pickles in the kitchen of their rented flat in London and their business grew. Eventually they moved to Bolton and this was the start of the Patak company. Although the business was sold, Anjali and her father are still actively involved. The Indian-side of the business is still Pathak family owned — Patak’s India — and Kirit spends a lot of time in India selling the range over there. Along with Meena, Kirit splits his time between India and their home in Heaton.
“Just as anywhere in the world, people in India are looking for ways to make creating their favourite dishes more speedily at times. “People just don’t always have the time to prepare a meal from scratch,” explained Anjali.
Anjali still has strong links with Bolton, visiting friends and family regularly and was back in the town taking part in Bolton Food and Drink Festival this year. Patak’s is sponsoring National Curry Week and Anjali hopes the special event will encourage more people to try curry or experiment more. “It would be good to think that everyone enjoys a curry day during the week,” she said.