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Aktar Islam is an award-winning English chef, restaurateur and entrepreneur. In May 2018, he opened Opheem in Summer Row, Birmingham. It is the sixth restaurants Aktar has established in and around Birmingham and the first for which he has had 100% creative control.
Opheem has a 70-cover restaurant with a sleek bar on Summer Row near the city’s iconic Jewellery Quarter. It celebrates the culinary heritage of India and showcases Aktar’s passion for progressive Indian gastronomy while delving into the country’s ancient culinary traditions. Opheem champions the subcontinent’s distinctive flavours, spices, textures, taste balances and applies modern techniques and flair.
Aktar became a household name in 2009 when his skills in the kitchen put his former restaurant Lasan on the map as the first Indian restaurant in the United Kingdom to be selected as the "Best Local Restaurant" by Gordon Ramsay on Channel 4's The F Word. In June 2011, the chef cemented his culinary credentials by winning BBC Two’s Great British Menu.
Aktar was born and raised in Birmingham, England. His parents, originally from Bangladesh, came to Britain in the late 1970s and Aktar is the second eldest of their five sons.
Aktar’s academic father was a political scientist in Bangladesh. However, shortly after his parents settled in Birmingham, his father decided to open an Indian restaurant in Solihull called The Indian Palace. Aktar began helping his mother cook at home from the age of seven.
He attended Prince Albert School, Birmingham and gained vital hospitality experience working in his father’s new restaurant, Karma, when he was 13. At the age of 16, he left school and went to work in his father's kitchen full-time, moving to a position at an Italian restaurant when he was 18. After two years, Aktar returned to The Indian Palace, ran it for two years, and turned it into a profitable business for the first time.
In April 2002, at the age of 22, Aktar co-founded Indian restaurant Lasan in St Paul's Square, Birmingham city centre, where he was head chef and a director.
In 2007, he launched a cookbook and DVD, called the Spice of Life, in collaboration with Warwick University Medical School.
In 2010, Aktar and sous chef Aysan Shaikh beat Curry Corner from Cheltenham to win the "Best Local Indian Restaurant" category for Lasan on Channel 4's The F Word after beating Santa Maria (South American cuisine) and Sweet Mandarin (Chinese cuisine) in the semi-final. They then went on to win the overall final, after beating The Pheasant from Keystone, Cambridgeshire.
In June 2011, Aktar won the Central regional heat to reach the final of the BBC Two series Great British Menu. He went on to win the fish course in the final. A popular face on television, Aktar’s appearances include Market Kitchen, Perfect, Saturday Kitchen, and The One Show. He is a regular judge at the South Asian Chef Competition. Along with other celebrity chefs, he attends the BBC Good Food Shows, Autumn Fair, Heart of England Fine Foods, Food & Drink Expo, Taste festivals, Grand Design LIVE and Sharon Osbourne's Mrs Osbourne Presents.
In 2012, he helped launch Restaurant Angels, a hospitality consultancy service offered to restaurants nationally and internationally. In December 2012, he embarked on his first non-Asian food concept, launching Fiesta Del Asado, an Argentinean asado restaurant in Edgbaston, Birmingham. In October 2013, Aktar launched Raja Monkey, an Indian dhaba (roadside café) in Hall Green, Birmingham. In 2017 Aktar, he helped launch Izza Pizza, an Italian pizza restaurant, in the Foodhall at Selfridges Birmingham.
Aktar launched his first solo restaurant, Opheem, in Birmingham city centre in May 2018. The restaurant, which features a private dining room for 14, celebrates seasonal ingredients, premium produce and family favourites including Aktar’s signature Hyderabadi goat biryani.
In May 2012, Aktar was named Birmingham Young Professional of the Year at the International Convention Centre. He won the overall title after being named winner of the Entrepreneurial category.
He attended a reception at Buckingham Palace, invited by the Queen and Prince Philip, for his contribution to the British hospitality industry. Aktar was selected by Marketing Birmingham to represent the city in its Birmingham Bites campaign.
Aktar lives in Birmingham and has a son, Alex, who was born in 2007.
He also supports charities including Birmingham Children's Hospital, NHS Organ Donor Campaign, Oxfam and NHS/Warwick University Spice for Life campaign.