Pakistani chef spices up American cooking show

While friends were applying to Ivy Leagues and Oxbridge, up to five or six universities at a time, Ali applied to just one; a culinary institute in upstate New York.

While her mother supported her decision, her father, a well-known barrister in Lahore, initially urged her to apply to law schools instead, finally coming around after much persuasion. For 16-year-old Ali, there was no two ways about it – she started cooking at five and this would be her future.

Single-minded in her goal, her stubbornness combined with passion eventually helped her win an episode of the reality cooking show ‘Chopped’ which aired on June 12 on The Food Network in the United States.

The 22-year-old, who is a sous chef at Café Centro in mid-town Manhattan, remembers watching food television religiously. BBC Food while she was in Karachi and then The Food Network when she moved to the US. “My sister would beg me to change the channel, especially during Ramazan, but I would be like ‘no, no, no’, eventually my entire family was addicted.”

When Chopped first aired on US television, Ali, who was then a student at the Culinary Institute of America, was hooked to it. “I convinced myself I would do it one day,” recalls Ali.

Ali works as a sous chef in a restaurant that can seat up to 420 people and sees a lunchtime crowd of 150 people every hour

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