New Year Honours 2019: Mowgli founder Nisha Katona honoured
A former barrister who hung up her wig and gown to open a contemporary Indian restaurant chain has been appointed MBE.
Nisha Katona, from Wirral, Merseyside, founded the Mowgli Street Food chain in 2014 and has been honoured for services to the food industry.
The 47-year-old said: "I never, ever, cry at anything but I was overwhelmed.
"I just wanted to bring my ancestral dishes to the wider community. This is the most incredible endorsement."
The daughter of parents who immigrated to England from the Indian city of Kolkata, Ms Katona said many in her family were initially unconvinced by her decision to establish a small restaurant in her home city of Liverpool.
It meant abandoning a successful legal career, but the self-proclaimed "curry evangelist" had a keen ambition to showcase the food her family cooked at home.
"These dishes are my mother's, my grandmother's, my auntie's," she said. "These are the recipes I grew up on."
Two books followed, as well as growing popularity on television and social media, and Ms Katona is now planning to open a seventh restaurant early in 2019.
Her recipes posted on Twitter are read by thousands of fans, while a cooking channel on YouTube is also popular around the world.
Receiving the honour was initially daunting, she said.
"When you receive the envelope with Her Majesty written on it, your stomach drops. You think 'has something gone wrong with my tax returns?'"
However, describing her feelings on opening the letter, Ms Katona said: "It was recognition that it was worth risking everything.
"And now they're going to put me in a frock and send me to the palace."
Meanwhile, 81-year-old Edith Martlew has received a British Empire Medal for services to the community of St Helens.
The honour recognises decades of work to found and raise money for the Lester Drive Centre, which provides classes, activities and excursions for older people.
She said: "I was just completely surprised when I opened the letter because I was not expecting it at all."
Other Merseysiders honoured include Ann Connor, a former advisor at the Department for Education, who was appointed OBE for services to education.
Roger Arden and Patricia Armstrong-Child were appointed MBE for services to the community in Liverpool and to nursing respectively.
Canon Valerie Jackson became an MBE for services to Liverpool Cathedral and the diocese, while Andrea Nixon, the former Tate Liverpool executive director, received the same honour for services to the arts.
Nikki Holland, the former assistant chief constable of Merseyside Police, received the Queen's Police Medal.