When did you realise you wanted to work in hospitality?
It wasn’t a realisation as such, more of how I stumbled across it by chance whilst working in banking. Cutting quite a long story short, I invited my boss at the time, Warren Buffett, for dinner who brought his pal, Bill Gates, along to my apartment in NYC for dinner. They loved the meal I prepared and said I should do some research into the food industry. A year later after a sabbatical I decided to close the door of banking and set up The Hampstead Kitchen.
Where and how did you get your start?
I started doing private events after I did a small fundraiser for the Gates Foundation and was exposed to politicians like the Clintons, the Obamas and also philanthropists like Mark Zuckerberg. They loved the sharing concept of my events and started recommending me to their friends, and it just escalated. I was soon doing events in NYC, L.A., London and the South of France.
Sum up your current work life in one sentence
Constantly changing and a challenging, yet fun, balancing act.
Who has been really influential on your career and why?
My mentor, Warren Buffett, and my parents. Warren - because he’s the reason I got into this industry and he continues to advise me, offering me advice on the benefits of staying small and niche so that I can service my clients to the best standards, both in food and customer experience. My parents - because they taught me how to work hard, stay grounded, keep looking ahead and not backwards.
What’s next for you?
I’ll be focusing more on menu development and branding for a series of restaurants for a Middle Eastern Royal family. I’ll also spend a lot of time putting energy into my own Branding Consultancy business that aims to help food businesses and creatives.
What’s your one piece of advice to someone starting out?
Put a business plan together and ensure there are consumers who will see the value of your product or service
Where did you last have a great meal?
A home cooked meal at my parents with my favourite minced lamb, with green chillies and coriander with fresh rotees.
Are there any openings you are looking forward to?
I’m very boring, yet loyal and tend to stick my favourites. However, I love seafood, so really looking forward to Orasay, inspired by the outer Hebrides.
Where is the most exciting city for hospitality (after London)?
Copenhagen. The food, service and menus are fresh and innovative. Who would you identify as a rising star?
I work with a lot of refugees via the philanthropy projects I’m involved with. I’d love to see one of their restaurants or ideas do well and see them as a rising star in the food industry. It’d be great.
Saima Khan will be hosting a Malaysian Pakistani banquet with Mandy Yin at Sambol Shiok on Sunday 16th June to celebrate the end of Ramadan and Eid Al Fitr. Saima believes that food is the greatest way to promote peace, respect, and unity. And with the simple act of sharing food, it connects us, encourages understanding, conversation, and finding a common ground. Tickets are available here
This Q&A was first featured in the CODE Careers Bulletin. To get the latest roles direct to your inbox every Thursday sign up here.