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It is time women take back their ownership in food business: Chef Asma Khan

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Time is ripe for women to take back the ownership in the men-dominated food industry, said lawyer-turned-cook-turned-restaurateur Asma Khan, widely credited for putting women homecooks on the map of the culinary greats.

India-born Khan, who recently featured on Netflix's "Chef's Table", is a proud owner of the all-women London-based restaurant 'Darjeeling Express'.

Speaking on the 2nd edition of 'The India International Hospitality Expo' (IHE) here Friday, she said men, for too long, have been dominating the traditional sub-continental cuisine -- India, Pakistan and Bangladesh -- in their own "macho way", in a very "different culture".

"I don't say this in any disrespectful way but it is time that women actually take back the ownership of who we are when it comes to food. I think men have done well promoting the cuisine this long, but in a very macho way, in a very different culture.

"This because I think that 99 per cent of food that is eaten in this land -- India, Pakistan Bangladesh -- is the food cooked at home. So this food that we eat in restaurants is a very microscopic reflection of the food eaten in this region," said Khan during a session titled "Taking Food Out of the Home into the Restaurant".

According to Khan, the big difference between the two gender cooking in restaurants professionally is that while most men learnt it in a "culinary school", women on the other hand learnt it from their "mother".

"In our (Indian) culture, boy is the god who doesn't hang around in the kitchen like girls... the layering and nuances of food is not the forte of the male chef, this is because they didn't see the master chef at work which is their mother," she said.

The 50-year-old chef explained it giving her own example.

"I remember my hair smelling of caramelised onion, so now when I caramelise onions I smell my hair to check ke abhi hua ya nahi (whether it is done or not), this is something I learnt while hanging around with my mother when she was cooking," she explained.

Talking about her Darjeeling Express' all-women team, which mainly comprises of middle-aged homecooks who learnt cooking from their grandmothers, said they are the most "amazing" chefs in the world.

"... Every time the parantha is of the same size, the andaaz of their hand, the way they pick up the dough to make parantha, I am just in awe of them.

"This is what comes with years of experience that they can pick up a piece and if I weigh it will be the same every time," she said.

On Sundays, Khan gives her restaurant space for free to women who are aspiring chefs and would like to host supper clubs.

Though a successful restaurateur herself, when asked Khan to give some tips to those aspiring to be part of the food business, she surprised everyone with her reply: "those who want to make money please don't open restaurants".

"I never wanted to open a restaurant in the first place. I was lucky that first the bank gave me a loan and then I was very blessed that my husband gave me the rest.

"The restaurant seemed like the most painful, highly expensive, so everyone who comes to me and say 'I want to open a restaurant' my heart sinks because it is not straightforward," she added.

The recently concluded IHE, claimed to be the biggest in South Asia so far, saw an well-planned line up of trade discussions, conferences, gastronomic demonstrations, master classes, awards night and more.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, August 11 2019. 16:10 IST
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