Hira Tariq is pursuing a career that few women in Pakistan dream about, and fewer actually pursue. She is a professional chef, with formal education and training in culinary arts, and has worked extensively in leading restaurants and hotels internationally.
She pursued culinary training after taking the food studies and nutrition course in O & A Levels. Later on, she enrolled herself in Bachelors programme in Culinary Arts and Food Service Management at Taylors University in Malaysia. This is where she learned the basics and got a professional degree. She continued her training in Shangri-La Hotel and Four Seasons Resort where she got hands-on experience of working in a kitchen as a professional chef. Currently associated with Nestle Professional in an Advisory capacity, Hira is imparting professional patisserie training to budding chefs in COTHM. . In an exclusive interview with You! this Lahore-based chef talks about her culinary journey and her passion for food...
You! Did you always want to be a chef?
Hira Tariq: Yes, I always wanted to be a chef. Learning new recipes and methods and food creativity was ingrained in me since I was a young, so becoming a chef was a natural progression.
You! When did you start cooking?
HT: When I was eight years old, I started taking keen interest in the kitchen. I was involved in cooking, experimenting and always ended up making a mess in kitchen. However, my parents encouraged me to explore this interest and perhaps this is why I am where I am today.
You! How long you have been working as a chef?
HT: I have been working as a chef since the last six years.
You! How would you define your style?
HT: My goal is to be innovative while using variety of products and going into depth of each ingredient.
You! What is your feature flavour these days?
HT: My favourite flavour is salted caramel with a combination of hot and cold.
You! Your greatest culinary inspirations/influences?
HT: Jack Monore, a food writer and journalist and Asma Khan, chef and owner of Darjeeling Express.
You! What do you like most about your job?
HT: In my opinion, food brings people together. Therefore, I enjoy being part of the process and making people happy with the food that I create. Also exploring the market and getting to know new global trends for food is something which greatly excites me.
You! An ingredient you can’t live without?
HT: Sugar - no can do.
You! Signature dish?
HT: Fried Ice cream and Paris Brest.
You! Who do you admire the most for their achievements? Who are your favourite chefs?
HT: My favourite chefs are Gordon Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain. I absolutely admire the kind of work they have done in food service industry and I hope I am able to achieve that level of perfection.
You! What is your favourite Pakistani food?
HT: Tamarind lady finger.
You! What is your favourite world food?
HT: Thin crust pizza & panini sandwich.
You! What sort of people have you cooked for during your career?
HT: I have been a chef at fine dining restaurants, cafes and hotels, both locally and internationally. So I have cooked for pretty much all sorts of people.
You! Do you have any regrets that you chose to become a chef?
HT: Never. However, I see so many people struggling while making this decision as there are a lot of taboos associated with the food service industry in Pakistan. It’s my dream to see more and more people choosing this career path without any regrets. This is the reason I have been a part of culinary training programmes for young chefs as well. One such programme was a training in patisserie arts organized by Nestle Professional to coach students in the art of dessert making. It’s one of a kind that I have seen in Pakistan. I believe we need to empower these young people so they can move up their career ladder and contribute to the local food service industry without any regrets.
You! What are the low points of being a chef?
HT: Being a chef means you have to be on your toes all the time. Not just literally but figuratively as well. You always have to be very particular and have an eye for detail.
You! What would be your advice to someone who is thinking of training to be a chef?
HT: My advice for the young chefs would be to never miss a chance of hands-on training. Be it a workshop, a training program or on-the-job training but one has to step out of their comfort zones and test their limit while learning too.
You! Is this a lucrative job?
HT: Being a chef is not a lucrative job but you have to stay self-motivated and keep pushing yourself to excel and do better. Being in Pakistan, we have to fight a lot of misconception and a lot of people don’t get our job. But the work is spiritually satisfying and I am delighted when I see more and more people pursuing it.
You! What do you think you would have been if you had not become a chef?
HT: I would have been a jewellery designer.
You! What are your spare time interests, what do you do to relax?
HT: In my spare time, I like to bake and read books. For relaxing I watch TV shows while having tea.
You! Do you take cooking classes?
HT: Not at the moment but when I am training other chefs. I am re-learning and re-evaluating what I already know.
You! What are the main ingredients to become a good chef?
HT: A good chef is required to effectively manage and command the kitchen while the interpersonal skills help him/her in building an efficient team.
You! How do you maintain work-life balance?
HT: I have good management skills that keep me going.
You! What’s next in your agenda?
HT: Opening my own fine dining restaurant.