The King Of Curry
Sir Gulam Kaderbhoy Noon has built one of the world’s largest ethnic-food factories, cooking and shipping close to 1 million packaged meals a week. Starting at 6 a.m. every day, 1,000 workers cook from a menu of more than 800 dishes. Just don’t call it fast food.
A day in Noon’s $20 million, 100,000-square-foot factory reveals the scale of this titanic takeout. It begins at 6 a.m., when chefs look at estimated orders for tomorrow’s meals. By the end of the two-shift day, the factory’s kitchens will have served up more than 150,000 meals from a menu of 800 different dishes. Most are Indian, but 72 are Mexican, 40 Thai, and 20 Chinese. The majority of this factory’s output is for Sainsbury’s, the U.K.’s second-largest supermarket chain. Two more factories in west London supply another half-dozen of the major chains.
At 9 a.m., the supermarkets firm up their orders and the factory crunches into top gear. Raw materials are received, passed through metal detectors (to check for stray bits of machinery and such), and examined for quality. Ingredients for each batch of a recipe are weighed out and piled high on trolleys that are wheeled to huge “bratt” pans and steam kettles. The pans cook 500 pounds of rice at a time–the factory boils 15 tons a day–while the sauces are cooked in 1,000- and 2,000-pound kettles with internal stirrers.