‘I THINK CHEFS ARE ARTISANS. ALL OF US HAVE A DIFFERENT TAKE ON THE FOOD THAT WE PUT ON THE PLATE. IT’S AN EXPRESSION; IT’S VERY PERSONAL’ BISMA R AKHUND
We exclusively speak with Bisma, a Le Cordon Blue and SCAFA graduate, who tells us about her professional career in the culinary industry, her thoughts on Pakistan’s restaurant scene, what it’s like being married to a fellow chef and lots more. Read on…
Hi Bisma, tell us a little about yourself and your upbringing.
If I put myself in words, I’m someone who believes in a better tomorrow and look forward to a bright future even when life takes you through a roller coaster ride. I think of myself to be a very grounded person in terms of being understanding that life is a joyful gift by Allah and the more we appreciate the good and understand that the bad things are a part of the process, we’ll cherish it more by the passing day. I come from a family where we all consider being together; spending time is the best gift we can give each other, it’s a houseful!
Where did you go to culinary school and what would you say has been your greatest learning from that experience?
I went to Le Cordon Bleu London, and before that I went to SCAFA in Lahore. I learnt discipline, consistency and also that hard work and determination takes you places.
‘I learnt discipline, consistency and also that hard work and determination takes you places’
Did you always imagine being in the culinary/ hospitality industry or did you have other dreams?
To be honest, I was always good at cooking and general baking. I know it’s sounds cliché, but it’s true. I didn’t really understand it at first but when I did, I jumped towards it with a mindset to achieve everything that I have and a long way to go ahead. I also have an interest in fashion designing, but that’s a topic for another day.
Is there any recipe that is being carried on from your ancestors? If yes, tell us a bit about it.
Yes! It’s a lovely chicken roast that I’ve never ever tasted anywhere in the world. It’s constantly basted with garlic butter - Only if I could describe the aroma in words. That’s one thing I will include in my restaurant menu soon.
What does a professional day in your life look like?
While working at Armani Hotel in Dubai, everyday was hectic. 9-12 hours of constant work yet it was immensely fulfilling! Some days, I’d wake up 4 AM to go and prep for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I had a chance to work with Michelin star chefs and learnt a great deal. Apart from that, e v e r y d a y i s r e c i p e development and testing them to create a menu for my own restaurant.
If you were to open a restaurant, what style of food would you pick?
I’d love to open a test kitchen before opening a fancy restaurant. When it comes to a restaurant, it’ll probably be a fine dine.
A couple of issues ago, we also featured your husband Basim Akhund. You both happen to be in the same field – are you guys competitive? Who is the better chef?
Very competitive! I think we both think we’re the best. Just kidding.
What are the pros and cons of working in thesame field as your partner?
There are more pros than cons. I’ve someone I can have intense food conversations with, discuss work knowing that he will understand every bit of what I’m saying. There’s only one con to this, if one of us is cooking, the other tries to cook it like they would and that’s not accepted in our kitchen. We don’t touch each other’s creations anymore.
‘I had a chance to work with Michelin star chefs and learnt a great deal’
Two pros and cons of working in the culinary industry?
Pros are that you can work for yourself and you can be creative and express yourself through cooking. When it comes to cons, there are two main things, you will have to work long, difficult hours and it’s physically demanding.
What are your thoughts on the restaurant scene in Pakistan? What is on top of your list and what’s not?
I think the food scene has now become very diverse in Pakistan. People earlier were used to mediocre food until very recently, they’ve now started to explore all sorts of cuisines which is great for people like me to be able to introduce authentic cuisines without bringing a desi touch to it.
‘I think the food scene has now become very diverse in Pakistan. People earlier were used to mediocre food until very recently, they’ve now started to explore all sorts of cuisines’
What do you think sets you apart from the other professional chefs in Pakistan?
I think chefs are artisans. All of us have a different take on the food that we put on the plate. It’s an expression; it’s very personal. We’re all different from each other.
What is your favourite cuisine? How many different types of cuisine can you cook?
This is a very difficult question and I get it all the time. It really confuses me, and I think any chef would understand that. Anything I make is my favourite. If I certainly have to pick one, I’d pick Italian, since it’s very comforting. There are plenty cuisines I can cook: Korean, Japanese, Thai, Chinese, Italian, French, Peruvian, Greek, Pakistani, Indian, Spanish, Mediterranean, Moroccan and almost all sorts of patisserie.
Bisma Akhund in three words?
Fun, ambitious and true
INTERVIEW: SAFA ADNAN
PHOTOS: COURTESY BISMA R.AKHUND