Fathima Riyaz loved playing with clay pots as a child while pretending to imitate her mother. She would carefully glimpse her mother's work around the kitchen and be amazed by her skills. While it was during this time that Riyaz would pick up a ladle and try her hand at cooking, day-to-day cooking was not all she wanted. Her interest lay in experimenting with food, with flavours, and with her mother’s teachings. Now - several years later - with her daughter’s encouragement, Fathima Riyaz is finding lost flavours and bringing them to light through her enterprise 'Lady And Ladle'.
What started as a love for cooking for Bengaluru-based Fathima Riyaz has now taken shape in her entrepreneurial journey as a Home Chef, a label she did not know existed. Her cuisines are gaining popularity in Bengaluru, and word of mouth is making her a household name in town, where people are gradually learning about lost homeland flavours through Riyaz.
In an interview with SheThePeople, Fathima Riyaz talks about her journey as a Home Chef, her enterprise Lady And Ladle, why her Bhatkal recipe is a hot flavour in town, her goal to bring homeland cuisines to the world stage, and what makes the Indian food market more accepting of female entrepreneurs today.
Fathima Riyaz Interview
Although Home Chef Fathima Riyaz started her food business a few years back, her drive for cooking dates back to her childhood. Riyaz, who learned the basic skills from her mother, believes her mother's proficiency in cooking made her learn about food. "I remember playing in the kitchen while my mother cooked. I would always boil a pot of rice and wonder why couldn't I try something different with it. My mother encouraged me to experiment as I grew older and my interest in cooking increased. My grandmother and mother inspired me. Their style back then was cooking on firewood, and the skill passed on from generation to generation."
"It's like I've come a full circle; my mother inspired me to cook for the love of it, and now my daughter encouraged and honoured me by helping me establish Lady And Ladle."
Riyaz believes that her ability to practise more made room for both improvements and innovations, regardless of what stage in life she was at. As a mother of three children, Riyaz has always cooked at home for them, and her interest in trying Bhatkali cuisines made her oldest daughter realise Riyaz's extending knowledge in the field of food. "I always cooked different dishes, especially making my kids try all types of our Bhatkali cuisine. I never felt restricted, and that helped me with my skills. It's like I've come a full circle, my mother inspired me to cook for the love of it, and now my daughter encouraged and honoured me by helping me establish Lady And Ladle."
From delivering home-cooked food in the neighbourhood to becoming a notable name in town
Riyaz initially started delivering home-cooked food in the Richards Town neighbourhood in Bengaluru, and word of mouth assisted her in terms of outreach. "When I started, the positive feedback and encouragement from the people in the neighbourhood helped me gradually take orders from farther parts of the city as well. My neighbours helped spread more information about my cuisines, and because these cuisines are not much found everywhere, the knowledge about my food label grew with time. While my son played a huge role in helping me understand my entrepreneurial skills digitally, my younger daughter supported me to experiment more," she shared. Riyaz has been using delivery apps for food delivery around town, and her work has picked up pace given her attempts to better her cooking skills with experiments that are working for the foodies in town.
The inspiration behind Bhatkal cuisines
Many people in the state of Karnataka are unaware of the Bhatkal cuisine that comes from the coastal town of Bhatkal. Riyaz's effort to make more people taste local flavours was the inspiration behind cooking these cuisines. The food she cooks includes everything from Biryani to kebabs to curries to coolers and so much more. She even makes a variety of chocolates, with different flavours; and this is where her USP lies, she is not afraid to try more.
Riyaz, whose food has been featured at some big five-star hotels to highlight the unique flavours her cuisines hold, acknowledges that anything we consider an art rises and shines with time. "To cook is truly an art whether you inherit it or it becomes your passion as you learn and grow, I always felt the need to first respect what I do, and now it reflects in my professional career. Although my work has picked up and I am yet to achieve a lot in terms of business aspects, my heart will foremost always lie in cooking for my family, guests and friends whatever I do, wherever I go."
The Rise of Home Chefs
Riyaz believes that the world has now started accepting and appreciating Home Chefs more. "With the rise of food delivery apps and people becoming more aware of their skills and putting them to use wherever they are, we're seeing a rise in Home Chefs. We're professionals who are working from home and supplying food and services through professional channels," she added.
The Lady And Ladle owner takes inspiration from several Chefs across the world. "I admire many chefs including Tarla Dalal, Gordon Ramsay, Vineet Bhatia, Sanjeev Kapoor and Jamie Oliver because all of them own their unique styles. Tarla Dalal has been the most successful Home Chef, and as a woman, I take massive inspiration from her. On the other hand, Gordon Ramsey shows off his skills by being able to turn anything into a well-deserved dish, that's something I pick up on."
Reflecting on the Indian food scene in India
The Indian food scene is witnessing huge shifts in the country. With several people venturing into food entrepreneurship, Riyaz feels it's the best time for those who love cooking and want to start a business. "The Indian market is growing leaps and bounds when it comes to food. Our Indian culture is obsessed with food, and that's a good thing. Modern-day innovations with various easily accessible ingredients are truly changing the market rapidly. Also, now with conscious food habits and organic eating, there are again multiple channels of food being made available, homegrown, outsourced and so much more," she elucidated.
"I want to bring my homeland cuisines to the world stage"
Her plans for Lady And Ladle include furthering her client base and encouraging people to try more cuisines from their homeland. "I want it to be recognised as the chef whose cuisine is understood for its ethnicity and flavour. I want to make people feel at home when they try food cooked by me. It's a simple thing, really, they need to feel joy. That's about it."
"While the food industry has become more welcoming of female entrepreneurs today, it's important to bring women equal opportunities when it comes to establishing something of their own for financial independence."
Riyaz's advice for women who want to pursue a food business and are looking for a way to begin stems from her journey. "My only advice for beginners would be to love what you do, find your passion and have the confidence to accept both praises and criticism." When it comes to cooking, she adds, "Home Chefs or anyone wanting to begin, for that matter, need to be more audacious in experimenting. It's always better to try and fail than to never try."