The 21st Abergavenny Food Festival highlighted how food and community has potential to transform lives and economies in whole towns.
Indian-born British chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author, Asma Khan owns two restaurants in London’s Soho and was one of several headlining guest-speakers at this year’s festival providing inspiration to cooks with a difference.
On arriving in the UK from India in the 1990s, food helped Asma build on her future, as she described at the Abergavenny Food Festival press launch on Saturday morning.
“For me, food was so important. When I moved to this country it was my way home! I was desperately lonely, I felt hollow, I struggled a lot. I lived in Cambridge for the first eight years, my husband was teaching in the University so if you’re not a student or an academic, you’re a nobody in Cambridge.
“Because of luck, my karma, my destiny, I met these amazing women. As a woman from an aristocratic background I would probably never have met any of these women ever! We all found our bond in food.
Developing her food skills Asma found a platform via a pop-up in a Soho restaurant.
“I walked into a pub where everyone looked like an aging rock star. It was so demoralising; they didn’t want to eat my food. Everything changed because a food writer came, Fay Maschler, and wrote about “the most incredible Indian food!” You couldn’t get a table in my little pop-up after that.
In June 2019, Business Insider placed Asma number 1 on their list of “100 Coolest People in Food and Drink“, however she hasn’t forgotten the struggle to success in the food industry and finds that events like Abergavenny Food Festival are important for giving people from different backgrounds a platform.
“I’m Indian, a woman of colour, in a food society which may not understand where I’m coming from. The fact that people wrote about me, talked to me and gave me a platform, like now, is so important because we get the message out.
“I’m the face of the movement. Behind me are going to come so many women that are like me. You can’t be what you cannot see. The fact is I’m here at this festival. People may feel this is not the space for them and that the food business is too difficult. “Maybe I won’t fit in?” “Everybody fits in!” It’s about the soul and your heart!”