International Women’s Day- A Year On…

A year ago, I published a blog post on some of the up and coming women in food. Surprisingly, or not surprisingly, you still don’t find a lot of women in today’s food scene which is predominantly led by men. It’s not even an equal split. I’m not throwing shade, I’m just stating the reality whilst not sugar coating it. 👩🏻‍🎤

While I can only comment as an outsider in the food industry, articles like this really make you think.

There are plenty of articles online saying how there’s a dearth of female chefs or women in the kitchens. Yet most of us grew up with women in our families effortlessly managing their kitchens.

I was really happy to read an article on the Standard today aptly titled “International Women’s Day 2018: How London’s food and drink scene is celebrating” It gives hope to women all over who want to enter the food industry when they see such empowering role models. You see women stand side by side in food markets, pop ups, supper clubs, running kitchens or the front of house and being all round super stars!

So! In this blog post I wanted to share progress of some of the ladies I covered in my original post a year ago.

You should definitely read that blog post first so understand the journey of these inspirational women so far!

I hope this will serve as a motivation to anyone, including myself, looking to make their stamp on their own terms and show you what hard work, dedication and true sisterhood can help you achieve!

  • Masala Wala Cafe, Brockley:

Run by a stellar mum (Nabeela) and daughter (Saima) duo of Pakistani 🇵🇰origin, Masala Wala Cafe has very quickly become the go-to place for good ol’ home cooked Pakistani food. Always packed and brimming with energy, I’ve seen how these ladies have gone from strength to strength over the last year.

So I got Saima to update me in her own words and talk about what International Women’s Day means to her.

– What have you ladies been up to since last year? Update me! 😃

Saima: A year since the last blog…where to begin…

We have finished renovations to maximise capacity at our cosy cafe to allow for a booking system and have found a Wonder Woman of a chef Lucy Porter to our team who has worked side by side with my mother to execute the family recipes.

What’s been so rejuvenating about this experience is that regardless of nationality as a female chef she has such a thoughtful approach to the cuisine, our kitchen is a state of calm and fantastically organised.

We have now become a fully licensed establishment and to celebrate this we collaborated with our friends from the Brockley Brewery to create bespoke beers for our food as a permanent fixture. We now offer Masala Lager and PPA (Pakistani pale ale) an IPA recipe but a little tongue in cheek being Pakistani 😉

This really goes to show the power of collaboration as small independents getting together are way stronger. I worked closely with Debbie one of the directors of Brockley Brewery and this felt like a natural step as I felt strongly about offer local beers.

2017 brought exciting changes as through a pop up at Little Nans bar a new business was born, Deptford esquire. I collaborated my business Partner Tristan Scott to launch a New concept, bar restaurant offering craft beers, cocktails and Pakistani food with a twist. This was a frightening step but again a great process to go through and to challenge myself to adjust and think outside of ‘Wala world’

Masala Wala has a reputation for home cuisine but Deptford Esquire has pushed my creative side to come up with a celebration of all things east meets west. As a modern second generation Pakistani I have a different view and this business showcases how far we have come in terms of integration, it’s ‘London food’ essentially.

– Since this blog post is to celebrate International women’s day and women like you and your mum, tell me what this day means to you?

Saima: International woman’s day is a great landmark as for us it’s our businesses birthday, we are now 3 years old and have learnt so much on our journey, we have a lot of ideas to instil , no two days are ever the same for me and my mother Nabeela.

What’s ahead for me and my mother, we are expanding our offering organically, working towards catering and the possibility of new sites. I started this business as an opportunity for my mother to work and showcase what Pakistani Home cuisine means, we stick by that ethos 3 years on. It’s exciting to see how south Asian cuisine has been developing around the UK and to see more south Asian women in the kitchen. There is room for way more women in the industry we need to stick together and celebrate achievements big or small, it’s a woman’s world now xxx

  • Empress Market:

l came across Numra through her food stall/ her baby “Bun Kebab”. A homage to the famous “tiki kebab/ Bun kebab” street food found all over Pakistan. Nostalgic and in need of some home 🇵🇰 love, I saw Bun Kebab as my saviour in that cold, cold London afternoon 😆

Then I went to one of her supper clubs and thought it’s not long until this talented woman opens her own restaurant. Lo and behold, Empress Market was announced very soon after. (To hear more about Empress Market- check out my blog post where I covered Empress Market)

I got Numra to update me on what she’s been up to other than traveling and eating her way through different places before finalising the next permanent location for Empress Market 🤤

– Numra, what have you been up to since the past year? Tell me! 😃

Numra: In 2017, I founded Empress Market, a Pakistani 🇵🇰 restaurant, inspired by the places I’ve come from and my travels. I partnered with my friend, Sara to run a 9 month residency in Hackney.

It’s funny reading back about my girls whatsapp group from last year’s post – my partnership with Sara is off the back of those rambling feminist chats! Reflecting the matriarchy of the Pakistani home kitchen, we wanted Empress Market to be a place to celebrate London ladies! We regularly hosted lifestyle events, collaborating with some fabulous female entrepreneurs (Reset Travel, Holly does to yoga). The venue also gave Sara the inspiration to start her own supperclub Emaye’s Kitchen.

The Empress Market residency in Hackney was an incredibly challenge and I know I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the women around me. From the kick-ass girl team helping me run the floor, my mum and sister providing endless support, to the incredible partnership with Sara – these ladies gave me strength! 🙌🏼

– What’s the latest in your food endeavours and what do you hope to achieve this year?

Numra: I’m really excited for this new year! I want to continue sharing my British-Pakistani identity through my food in London. Having recently returned from road tripping around Pakistan, I’m planning on hosting a series of food-travel supper clubs this Spring. I’ll also be serving my trademark Bun Kababs at the Southbank Alchemy festival 2-7 May. Finally, a permanent spot for Empress Market is in the pipeline – watch this space! You can follow me on my instagram @empressmarket or subscribe to my newsletter via with more details 🙂

With all the shocking news and experiences we have been reading and hearing about, it’s great to see women still making their mark, not taking no for an answer and creating their own paths for success.

I have high hopes for this year! I want women to believe in themselves first, own their destiny themselves and stand up for themselves first before anyone else. “Here’s to strong women, may you know them, may we be them and may we raise them” 👩🏻‍🎤

Be your own trailblazer💅🏻#aintnobodygottimetoblendin


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