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Restaurant Owner Asma Khan Shares Her Experience Of Running All-Women Indian Kitchen In London

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Indian-origin chef Asma Khan is among 2024’s Top 100 influential persons in the world named by Time Magazine, standing alongside Alia Bhatt and Satya Nadella among others. Despite having a PhD in law, Chef Khan found her calling in food and started her restaurant ‘Darjeeling Express‘ in Soho, London in 2017. The restaurant in the capital of Britain boasts of an all-women kitchen cooking delicious Indian food. Chef Khan also made history as the first British chef to be featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table, using her platform to advocate for racial equality and female representation in kitchens. NDTV’s Radhika Iyer met Asma Khan in London and the restaurant owner talked about her incredible achievements and challenges in detail.

Talking about her journey, chef Asma Khan says, “I was driven by the politics of injustice. I was driven by the recognition that in every house in India, it is the woman cooking or the matriarch,” adding that the same did not apply when it came to restaurant kitchens. “No one wants to pay for our roti.”

“I just felt that it was so wrong. I was driven by a deep sense of this mission that I really wanted to do something. I studied law, so I was looking at it in a legal way to fight this,” she continued.

When she decided to start cooking and open her restaurant, many people asked, “You are a lawyer, you have a PhD, why do you want to cook.” Sharing her point of view, she explained, “I thought why don’t I use this way of communicating, of using food as a language of love, but also using it as a battle cry for justice.”
Also Read: Made With Love: This Restaurant Is Run Not By Chefs, But By Grandmothers From Around The World

On The World’s Perception Of Indian Cuisine

Talking about the world learning more about Indian cuisine, she says, “The world is just discovering us. It just makes me very excited.” Elaborating on the challenges, she explains, “There is absolute racism when it comes to food. Our food is seen as cheaper. People are willing to pay a lot for French, Italian, Spanish, and every other type of cuisine. But somehow there is still the perception that our food is cheaper.”

Sharing her point of view, she says, “It is a very ancient and sophisticated cuisine. When I thought that I was going to have a tasting menu, which I had very briefly, I had a very high price. Everyone told me no one is going to pay that kind of money for Indian food.” Chef Khan ensured the food on her tasting menu looked as Indian as it was. “I did not try to make our food like French or Italian or those tiny plates of food,” she said, adding, “I kept it true to what I am and it was sold out, immediately.”
Also Read: “I’m A Big Fan Of Mangoes Now”: Celebrity Chef Anna Polyviou On Making Eggless Desserts For Indian Guests And More

All Women Crew Runs The Kitchen

“The beating heart of the Darjeeling Express is the kitchen. We have always been a collective of women. I have never ever been on my own. The team is incredible,” she said, adding, “You do not see an all-female kitchen, cooking Indian food at this level anywhere in the world, we are only one in the world.

Watch the video for more interesting insights from chef Asma Khan, in a conversation with NDTV.

​Asma Khan is the chef and owner of Darjeeling Express in London. In conversation with NDTV, the chef talks about her incredible journey, challenges and achievements. 

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