Asma Khan, the first British chef to appear in the popular Netflix series Chef’s Table, has admitted that working in the restaurant industry “can be quite isolating”.
Speaking to the drinks business at the inaugural Ayala SquareMeal Female Chef of the Year awards at Daphne’s in Chelsea this week, Khan said:
“There will come a time when ‘best female chef’ awards are no longer necessary, but at the moment it’s a good time to come together and celebrate each other as working in the industry can be quite isolating.
“Anything that publicises and raises awareness about female chefs is good for us as the situation is not ideal at the moment, so it’s important that there is recognition for women chefs.
“People only hear of a couple of female chefs but this table today is full of them. Awards like this are a good chance to meet and network with fellow female chefs.
“I have an all-female team at Darjeeling Express, which was a deliberate decision as they are the ones who worked with me at my supper club before I opened a permanent site.”
Born into a royal family in Aligarh in northern India, Khan came to professional cooking later in life, having initially studied constitutional law at Cambridge.
Returning to India to master recipes passed down through her family, in 2012 she launched a supper club in her London home. The concept went permanent last year when Khan opened Darjeeling Express in Kingly Court, Soho.
She will appear in the sixth series of Chef’s Table, which airs next spring.
“Chef’s Table has been a great experience – they approached me to be the first British chef to be featured in the series, which was an honour.
“I did 20 days of filming in London and 20 days in India. Getting to be featured is good for all female chefs I think. People regonise me on the Tube now,” Khan said.
Also in attendance at the awards lunch was chef Ravinder Bhogal of Jikoni in Marylebone, which takes inspiration from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Given the current chef shortage in the UK, Bhogal told WLC that’s it’s more imperative than ever for employers in the industry to support female chefs.
“There’s a chef shortage in London, so employers should be encouraging female talent more than ever so that they stay in the industry.
“It’s tough for women chefs as a lot of them get lost to motherhood, so it’s about trying to make the hours work for them and accepting that they have a life outside of the kitchen.
“There are ways around it and employers need to be more flexible otherwise they are at risk of losing a big pool of talent,” she said.