Zarnak Sidhwa, a cooking expert, pursued her cooking passion from a very early age. She was one of the few lucky people who not only realized what their passion is but also get a chance to make it a way to earn their living. She took her cooking training from the popular chefs and experts in the cooking industry here and abroad. She started her catering business from her home 18 years back and her popularity slowly reached many people and she was able to develop a niche market for herself.
She was one of the few who made assorted handmade chocolates with different fillings. Belonging to the Zoroastrian (Parsi) community, her interest is in revising and refreshing old and original Parsi recipes, so as to preserve them for the next generation. Zarnak Sidhwa prepares delicious desserts and cakes. Her Christmas cakes and weddings cakes are claimed to be innovative and scrumptious. She started her career with Masala TV with the very popular show named Chocoholics and as the name suggests all the recipes were based around chocolate. It became so popular amongst the viewers that a 2nd season of this show was aired as well.
Currently since the past 10 years, she is doing a live cooking show on Masala TV, named Food Diaries, Monday to Friday in which she conjures up in her lively style a main course, a side dish or a drink and a dessert in addition to taking live calls during the show. Born and brought up in Karachi, Zarnak is proud to be representing her community worldwide. Schooled at the Mama Parsi Girls High School, she graduated from the St. Joseph’s College. She is also the recipient of the Ponds Miracle Award, and the Best Female Influencer Chef Award at the Annual Culinary Awards 2021. She also has contributed on a chapter on Parsi cuisine in a book on subcontinent food.
We are fortunate enough to have her feature on our platform. Here is an un candid conversation with our very favourite Zarnak Sidhwa. Lets see what she has to say about her work and life experiences.
When did you decide to become a chef?
I used to love cooking as a child, I remember my first time in the kitchen, I made a brownie. Since my mother was a working woman, so she inculcated division of work in our house, I would always help her in small kitchen chores, like boiling the rice, mixing the ingredients.
What was your first job in the food industry?
My first job was 12 years ago at Masala TV with a cooking show called ‘Food Diaries’. Since then i have worked on numerous collaboration and it was an amazing journey.
What is your signature dish? What do people love about it.
People loved my desserts and they rave about it. I have done two three tier wedding cakes when no body was doing it. Not the traditional chocolate or red velvet cakes but fruit cakes. Safe to say that I have a dessert niche.
What is your favorite or least favorite dish to prepare? Why?
There is no least favorite dish, but I don’t like to make parathas, i love everything about cooking and baking but Parathas are not my forte.
How do you describe your overall cooking philosophy?
Overall cooking philosophy is to be organized, to be able to do time management. Have your day planned, have your recipes plan ahead and have a complete grocery list when you go for shopping. Work with complete clarity, have your ovens pre-heat if needed and not to leave things for the eleventh hour.
Name the three kitchen tools you can’t do without?
I cannot do without my spatulas, sieves and knives. Its a must for me while working.
What chefs do you follow on social media (or admire their work and career in general.
I have been a great follower of Mary Bery. She has over sixty years cooking experience, Mary Berry is considered to be the doyenne of baking.
What cuisines are you most familiar with?
I love Desi cuisine as well as Parsi cuisine. Since i am Zoroastrian popularly known as Parsi. So I make a lot of Parsi food at home. Apart from that i love French cuisine.
We have seen your son on your show, how much foodies is he? And does he cook with you?
My elder son likes to cook. He makes amazing bao buns and pasta from scratch. But now since he is training to be a Doctor so he barely gets time to mess in the kitchen.
Any memorable incident from the show that stayed with you?
Since its a live show a lot has happened over the years. From sudden electricity shortfall to kitchen spills or ovens not pre-heated, we just have to smile and go with the flow. It can not be edited so we just have to improvise.
What has been your most memorable moment as a chef?
Its always memorable to be recognized as a chef and more so when people get into food business after learning from you, its always great to hear such feedbacks when people tell you that they have made this far from my recipes. Sometimes some of them msg when they get stuck with a recipe. Its very fulfilling to be recognized for your work.
What are the biggest trends in the culinary world right now?
My forte would be to follow those trends that include smart cooking. I believe sustainable trends are those that involve less food wastage as there is inflation across the world. So smart cooking that includes less food wastage and utilization of all ingredients available should be the only food trend that one should follow.
Any tips to young girls who don’t like cooking but had to do it?
I believe when there is a will there is a way, so rather than struggling at a new place, be it hostel abroad for studies or new family after marriage. It is always better to know basics about some cooking and baking at relatively early age than to struggle later when you have more challenges at hand.