For Tala Bashmi, a chef from Bahrain, cooking is not a simple means of offering patrons an enjoyable and satisfactory meal, but to create masterful works of art constructed from unusual flavours
Describe your style of cooking?
My style of cooking is local, eclectic and whimsical. I always aim to stimulate not only the stomach, but the mind too. My food does not fall under a specific cuisine as I use all kinds of ingredients. Not only that, I also prefer to work from ‘nose to tail’ or ‘root to stem’, which means using an ingredient in its entirety.
In this male-dominated profession, what has been your mantra to success?
I believe in the mantra, ‘Never let them break you.’ In this male-dominated profession, being a woman I often encounter people making jokes about me or even using derogatory names, but these things push me further to achieve success.
You have worked at some of the best culinary destinations across Switzerland and Bahrain. You also initiated ‘Baked by T’. What motivates you?
‘Baked by T’ is where it all started. It is here that I realised that making food could make people happy, put a smile on their face and even turn their day around.
Your favourite chef? Why?
I admire Ferran Adria, the godfather of modern molecular cuisine. He changed the game and set the bar for chefs, like Heston Blumenthal, a celebrity chef from London. The second would be Grant Achatz for his view on the philosophy of food and taking it to a completely incomprehensible level (creativity, constant pushing of the new and evolution). Finally, my Chef Patrick Diethelm, who is like a magician. He makes everything seem so effortless. Even in the simplest tasks that he performs, there is something for you to learn.
Is there any secret ingredient for your cooking?
I love working with Konbu. It is an “umami bomb”, which develops depth in many dishes.
Your biggest indulgence?
Chocolate. Nothing gets between me and my chocolate.
How do you see the food scene changing in Bahrain?
I see Bahrain following trends, foods that are ‘insta-worthy’, regardless of what they consist of or where the ingredients come from. I hope that over the years people learn to appreciate the ingredients that come from sustainable sources and learn to develop their palate to a different kind of taste.
If you were stranded on a deserted island, what would be the three things you would want to be with you?
A knife, photos of my friends and family and a book.
If you could travel back in time or to the future, where would you like to go and why?
I’d love to go to the future to see how food progresses: Do we take the route of growing more produce and go ‘old school’ foraging? Or do we take the scientific route and start cloning food and molecules to create new things.
One person you would love to have dinner with?
Anthony Bourdain, who is a celebrity chef from the US.
Any message for amateur cooks?
Try to go out into the industry while you’re still young. Understand how it works, what it entails and what it takes to be part of this madness. It takes every ounce of strength to make it in this industry, so do it.
By: Nikita Sharma