Are you ready to tantalize your taste buds? Dive into the culinary world? Well, keep your napkin tucked and get seated to meet award winning Chef Suman Ali, a Bahraini superstar chef taking Toronto by storm with her Bahraini fusion flair!
The Start of a Dream.
Born and raised in Bahrain, Chef Suman developed a passion for culinary arts at an early age, curious by the ingredients, inspired by watching her mother’s food and binge-watching a favorite cooking channel, Fatafeat! Now that’s a name we haven’t heard in a while. Chef Suman’s passion for the culinary industry was evident in the way she learned every cooking technique with precision and dedication. She embodied the qualities of a chef.
“The social aspect of food and the power it has to bring people together is what drew me to the industry,” said Chef Suman, “A shared meal is a simple act that can build strong relationships. I was determined to learn and explore different culinary techniques and cultures.”
Chef Suman’s approach to cooking is rooted in her deep respect for authenticity and desire to innovate and experiment, utilizing traditional ingredients alongside Canadian ones, and bringing something fresh and new to the table each time. She believes that food is an expression of culture and identity, and that by sharing her culinary heritage, can raise awareness on the rich cultural tapestry of the Middle East, and more specifically, Bahrain.
A Spoonful of Passion.
Though she began her journey in the culinary world as a Fusion Chef, Chef Suman gradually rose to the top, never forgetting her roots. “Bahraini cuisine is the heart and soul of my craft and I’m passionate about changing the way Middle Eastern cuisine is perceived.” She stated, explaining that she’s sharing the story and culture of the South Asian diaspora in how Bahraini and Gulf cuisine has evolved. “In a nutshell, I’m on a mission to show that we’re more than just shawarma and falafel,” she added. Examples of this include karak chai, a variation of Indian masala tea; thareed, which is referred to as sutri in Hyderbadi cuisine; hareesa, which is also called as haleem or khichdha. How can you not be in awe?
And this drive and determination came through with the demanding work culture that made the chef notice the lack of representation for women in the food and beverage industry, regardless of region. Chef Suman started, “To this day, there are people who perceive women from the Middle East as subdued and unassertive. I want to break down these stereotypes and authentically represent our women in the industry. I understand that pursuing a culinary career can be a challenging path for women, and that access to culinary education may not always be readily available.”
She added, “Still, I believe that with determination and hard work, anyone can overcome these obstacles. I see myself as a role model for aspiring female chefs and am committed to paying it forward by empowering others to pursue their dreams.” Hats off to the chef!
One of the most notable things about Chef Suman is that she’s not your ordinary culinary artist, she’s also an entrepreneur and founder of House of Khaleej Hospitality, which includes a cloud kitchen specializing in Bahraini comfort food with a modern twist. House of Khaleej is a testament to Chef Suman’s passion for her native Gulf cuisine, especially Bahraini food, and her desire to showcase its richness and diversity to the world through the Toronto-based Cookin App to people from all walks of life.
And as if that wasn’t enough to fall head over heels in admiration over the chef, she’s also passionately sharing her culinary, hospitality, and tourism knowledge as a professor at Fanshawe College! “As much as I enjoy cooking, teaching has always been part of being a successful chef. I feel it’s my calling to share my passion with others, especially newer hospitality professionals and aspiring chefs,” she remarked how this also helped her stay up-to-date with the latest market trends and techniques to be a better mentor and chef.
Speaking of market trends, we had to ask Chef Suman about the latest tech used in the culinary world. “While the pandemic accelerated the growth of food apps, I have witnessed firsthand the delivery bubble and hype burst post-pandemic. As consumers, we crave a more personalized and qualitative experience, which is why newer concepts like the supper club or communal dining have emerged.”
Chef Suman finds the use of modern technology in the culinary and hospitality industry exciting but believes in the importance of balance and recognizing the value of craftsmanship. At the end of the day, it is a human touch that sets the industry apart and creates a more meaningful, sentimental experience.
Chef, Entrepreneur and Angel Mentor.
In addition to her culinary work, Chef Suman is a fierce advocate for women in the F&B industry so it’s no surprise that she’s a founding legacy member of Playbook and an active angel investor in the platform that’s designed to uplift women. “Through my involvement in Playbook, I had the opportunity to represent and promote culinary and tourism hospitality while providing guidance, advice, and connections to help women navigate their careers in the industry,” she expressed enthusiastically.
Of course, we couldn’t speak to a renowned chef without asking what her favorite dish or ingredient is, especially one that is used to represent Bahraini cuisine. Chef Suman surprisingly answered with, “Lemons!”
Yup, you read that right! “Loomi is a versatile ingredient that I incorporate in every food pop-up, and I believe we should trademark its various uses! From dusting it on top of steaks and meat mixtures to adding it to broths and stews, Loomi adds a distinct flavor that elevates any dish.” She went on to mention how Bahraini cuisine has distinct flavor profiles. “I enjoy maximizing the full potential of what an ingredient could be based on what is harvested in the region.” Can’t lie, we do love some ripe Loomi too.
Bite of Wisdom.
As expected, Chef Suman left us with wonderful advice. We definitely needed to share them with you. She started with, “Educate yourself before pursuing this career and take the time to learn what aligns with your passion and mentality. It’s important to note that what you see on TV and social media is not always an accurate representation of the daily grind of being a chef. Be open to always learning more and expanding your skill set.” And ended it with, “Don’t hesitate to seek out support from your community. Put yourself out there and connect with others who share your passions and values. Sharing your abundance will only help you impact and influence positively.” Community is key to bringing people together!
If that wasn’t enough to adore Chef Suman, she’s also been nominated for not one, but two, Women Empowerment Awards! A reward that celebrates and recognizes women who made significant contributions to their respective fields in Canada. The nominations are for the Mantella Corporation Entrepreneur BIPOC Grant Award and the Diversity, Equality, and Inclusivity Award, highlighting her commitment to excellence and efforts in empowering women in the culinary arts. The winners will be announced in September, and we’re rooting for her!
Chef Suman Ali is simply a force to be reckoned with. Her dedication to her craft, passion for sharing her culinary heritage, and commitment to empowering women in the industry make her a true inspiration. As she continues to push the boundaries of gastronomy and showcase the flavors of Bahrainto the world, we can’t wait to see what she will achieve next!