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Dishing out Inspiration: How an Underprivileged Woman From a Delhi Slum Became a Chef Despite All

Dishing out Inspiration: How an Underprivileged Woman From a Delhi Slum Became a Chef Despite All

What keeps her going is an interest in her work, a desire to contribute to the household expenses and a passion to see her son educated and well-settled in life.

A strong woman doesn’t give up even though her heart may feel heavy. She courageously takes one more step, then another and then another.


We have often heard that women make good chefs but men make better chefs. Most restaurants and hotels usually appoint men as their head chefs. We usually don’t see too many women in the food and beverage industry. However, with names like Nigella Lawson, Madhur Jaffrey and Tarla Dalal we are seeing a growing trend of women joining this industry who are breaking barriers and taking up cooking as a profession. Today, women are stepping out of their homes to become economically independent and are also aware and taking up careers which were or are considered male-centric.

The cooking profession was assumed to need aggression, leadership skills and assertiveness which the women were thought to lack. Even though statistics say that men surpass women in the hotel industry, yet in the households the roles are reversed where women are expected to cook and do the dishes.

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Kanchan, a mother of a 10-year-old boy, lives in a joint family in Badarpur. She has had no formal education. AECWF helps in increasing livelihood opportunities of adolescent girls and women living in the urban slums of Delhi. We approached Kanchan, who was looking for work to support her family of three. We connected her to Khoj and this was her first experience of working in a cafe. She recently joined the canteen at Khoj Studios; Khoj aims to connect creative practitioners and catalyze inter-disciplinary collaboration and experimentation to create new possibilities of art and art-making. Prior to joining Khoj she worked in DAV school’s canteen at Badarpur and also helped her husband in running their family business of cooking.

Married at a young age, Kanchan developed an interest in cooking very early on in life. When asked what made her choose cooking as a profession, she said she is extremely passionate about cooking and loves to try out new cuisines. She has learnt cooking by observing others. She says she just needs to watch a process once and it is enough for her to try out any new dish.

Her husband has also been cooking for several years and has been very supportive of her decision to step out of her conservative family. Kanchan had the zeal and was determined to step out of her comfortable home and earn her own livelihood to support her family. Her work starts at 9:30 and goes on till 7:00 and yet she prepares breakfast and lunch for her husband and son and after returning home, she cooks dinner. She knows that she has the responsibility of looking after both her home and work, yet she sees to all work without any complaints. We asked her what she enjoys the most about her new work and she replied that the atmosphere at the cafe and her boss who is very encouraging and supportive of her work.

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What keeps her going is an interest in her work, a desire to contribute to the household expenses and a passion to see her son educated and well-settled in life. She also believes that being economically independent is something that everyone should aspire towards, whether they are men or women.

We have heard of so many stories where voices of women remain unheard and suppressed. Their achievements are often not recognised or considered casual.  It is assumed that a woman has to look after her household work and her family despite facing hardships. Yet Kanchan remains an inspiration who, despite any formal education, decided to step out of her comfort zone and travel long distances to earn a better livelihood.

All this so she can be independent and contribute to household expenses.

Kanchan at work

AECWF: works towards increasing livelihood opportunities for Indian underprivileged women.

Help the Action for Excellence in Children and Women Foundation (AECWF) improve the lives of marginalized women and girls by donating here.


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