Meet Asma Khan, Indian-British Chef Among TIME 100 Influential People

Chef Asma Khan founded the Indian restaurant Darjeeling Express in Soho, London. The desi kitchen is run by women, mostly over the age of 50 and with no professional training. 

Tanya Savkoor
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chef asma khan

Image: Asma Khan, Food Inspiration

Chef Asma Khan is revolutionising the game of Indian cuisine in the United Kingdom, with her sophisticated interpretations of Bengali and Rajput soul foods. The Indian-origin British restaurateur and cookbook writer is among the eight Indians who have made it on TIME's 100 Most Influential People of 2024. Interestingly, she never had any professional training in cooking, but has made an undeniable influence on the culinary space. Chef Khan founded the restaurant Darjeeling Express, a desi kitchen in Soho, London, run by women, mostly over the age of 50 and with no professional training.


According to the culinary magazine Food Inspiration, the chef had the vision for women to break the glass ceiling in the male-dominated restaurant business. "It’s been a smashing success, with an ever-growing waiting list of women who would love to work with Khan," journalist Maaike de Reuver writes.

Chef Asma Khan's Journey

Chef Khan was born in Kolkata in 1969. Her father worked to unionise labourers in India, and her mother ran a catering business from the 1970s to 1980s. She got married in 1991 and moved to England. Deeply missing homecooked meals and desi flavours, that was the first time she began cooking.

She learnt to cook from her aunt who lived in Cambridge. It started as a hobby, as Khan was more passionate about studying law, for which she received her doctorate in 2012. During her college days, Khan would host private supper clubs at home, introducing unique desi dishes to her friends in the UK.

chef asma khan
Photo: Food Inspiration

After graduation, Chef Khan's supper clubs grew in popularity, even grabbing the attention of renowned chef Vivek Singh. Chef Singh invited Khan for a pop-up at his restaurant, The Cinnamon Club. This was the "turning point" in her life, she told the portal Slurrp. This led Chef Khan to host supper clubs at pubs in Soho.


A few years down the line, Chef Khan opened Darjeeling Express, serving comfort foods that remind Indians in the UK of home. In an interview with Slurrp, she expressed, "Even to my surprise I never felt that the kind of food I cook from home even had any future or would be accepted in the hospitality world."

asma khan
Image: Tanya Lake, Google Maps

Chef Khan continued, "Building a restaurant was not something I ever thought would happen. But when it happened, I knew it was so different, and I can proudly say that mine is an all-female Indian restaurant in the world serving food at the price range and location we have." In 2018, she wrote a cookbook, Asma’s Indian Kitchen.

Chef Khan also runs a non-profit organisation called Second Daughters Fund. Being the second daughter to her conservative parents, she was often made to feel like she was not 'good enough'. Thus, the profits from Darjeeling Express go to empowering India’s underprivileged and neglected girl children. 

Time 100 list chef asma khan most influential people