FAMILY AND HISTORY
OPINIONS AND GUIDANCE
Farah Jehanzeb Khan
First of all we, KhanaPakana.com would like to thank you for allowing us to conduct this interview, a lot of KP members missed seeing your Live programs on Geo and now are glad to have you back in front our eyes again on Zaiqa TV Channel! Also we would like this opportunity to thank you for acknowledging KP in your last show on Geo TV Channel.
This lady is certainly inspiring, not only is she a great cook but a brilliant fashion designer. She brings the homey touch reaching out to thousands of housewife’s advising them of kitchen etiquettes, grooming and table décor. This interview will tell you about Farah J Khan’s life, how she began her career in cooking and her fashion inspirations. Farah also gives some great wardrobe advice and shares some funny incidences, along with beautiful motivational advice, an interview that will make you smile and appreciate Farah J Khan!
FAMILY AND HISTORY
• Please tell us a little about your family.
My ancestors migrated from Egypt to Sialkot nearly 100 years ago. My father was the one to migrate to Karachi, where I was born and raised. I am from a Punjabi family and my husband is Pathan. Alhumdulillah, we have been married for 17 years now. I have two beautiful daughters and had a son who died 8 years ago.
• How did you start your cooking shows?
My first show was basically a lifestyle show, based on the concept that they needed a lady who could help other women in an unprofessional manner from the safety of their homes. She had to be presentable, well spoken. Cooking basic recipes was the task so that women could prepare them there selves at home with ease. Recipes which were out of the ordinary were also taught, giving women something enjoyable to do.
I was approached with this offer which I accepted due to my interaction and experience in the fashion industry for a long period of time. I developed the reputation of someone who could perfectly fit into the role that they were looking for, knowing that I could cook and was known for my fashion designing skills.
• How do you balance between family and career?
I have a very supportive husband and family, so managing time has not been very difficult for me. If you are able to manage time properly in your life, than it is easy to create the perfect balance between your career and family. As I am a very home oriented person, people are shocked to see that I start work early and remain busy until late at night and that I am still able to attend to my children’s activities.
I believe that Allah tests those people who can manage, so hence you end up managing well. “Allah ki taraf say asani ajathi hain.” Having such a helpful husband is another advantage, we have a bond which is based on understanding, and when you have that, things organize themselves automatically.
• What shows have you appeared in so far?
Using my inner teaching talents, I hosted a program for children at the Montessori level. It was not only about cooking but educating them overall in daily life activities and healthy eating habits. The show was called, “Picnic”, which I participated in for a year and fine arts teachers would be invited as guests to assist me in educating the children even further.
After the “Picnic” program, I hosted a program called “Kitchen Queen” and “Food Afternoon” which were aired on TV One and Geo TV respectively for nearly one and a half years. Since I am very dedicated in my field, I try and use my skills and determination to go to the top, not the help of some lobby groups and such associations. Everyone knew that I was not there because of some backing but because of my own talents. I had to leave after a lot of conspirers began planning against me and making life on the set hard for me. I faced a lot of problems such as, blood would start dripping on my clothes, and microphones which were not fully charged were given to me and would stop working half-way through the program. My husband advised me to quite the shows and I did.
• What did you do after you left Geo?
My contract did not allow me to appear in any other show for six months. I received many offers in that timeframe including one from Sony TV. They unfortunately stopped hiring from Pakistan after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Currently, I am working for the Zaiqa TV channel and am conducting a live cooking show called “Zaiqedaar in the evenings”.
• What made you join Zaiqa TV Channel?
I could have gone on to bigger TV channels, as I had the experience of working with one of the biggest in the media industry for two years. Even though I received many offers from well-known stations, I thought about trying to work with fresh and energetic people.
After meeting the team at the Zaiqa TV Channel for the first time, I decided that it would be the best place for me. They have given me full authority over my show and I treat it like my baby which is the best part.
• What cooking courses have you done so far?
My family has Egyptian roots, so I have been eating Arabic dishes which my grandmother used to make since childhood. Nowadays, most cooks/chefs find it difficult to make such dishes.
I was born and raised in Karachi which is a cosmopolitan city filled with people of different cultures in every neighbourhood. I learnt a lot from the people who lived around me, as I have very strong taste buds, I would be able to tell just by tasting which ingredients/herbs have been used.
My husband is a Pathaan and my mother is Punjabi but I personally like Chinese cuisine. One thing I have learned after doing live TV shows is that you cannot fluke. You have to work hard and create authentic recipes. Whenever I would get the chance to travel abroad, I would always take cooking courses to learn a variety of cuisines for my viewers.
I learned how to bake after attending different baking courses in London. Many people find baking difficult so that is why I also took French food classes and courses. I would cook until 3 am in the morning, perfecting and trying new recipes so I could provide my viewers with authentic and reliable recipes.
• How did you start your fashion career?
My family has been in the garments business for over 300 years now, so you could say that I inherited it. I graduated with a degree in Fine Arts and studied psychology. At the age of 15, I launched my fashion boutique in Karachi by the name of “Parishehs”.
• Is anyone else from your family also interested in cooking, fashion designing, or in the media?
In the 80’s, my Husband was one of the top models of Pakistan and worked in movies/television productions, now he is running his own business. He knows how show business is very hectic and time consuming, so he is aware that doing a live program requires hard work. His understanding gives me the motivation to continue what I am doing.
• How many outlets do you have?
My two outlets in Karachi are situated in Hill Park and Defence Phase 7. InshAllah, Opening an outlet in Lahore is something I plan on doing in the near future.
• Where do you find your inspiration for design?
Anything from nature, broken stones, antiques to the colours of the clouds provide me with inspiration. When you have an imaginative mind, everything comes as a sense of inspiration. You could say that I was born artistic. I love nature and in March there was a flower bloom in Karachi. When I passed by a house which had a wonderful display of flowers, I thought to myself, how beautifully Allah SWT has made such natural colour combinations.
• Your favourite material that you like to work with?
Because Pakistani women usually have pear shaped figures, pure crepes, pure chiffons, drapery and flowing chiffons are the best type of materials to work with. Using such soft flowing cloth makes it much easier to contour.
• Your favourite material that you like to work with?
I love to work with Earthy colours like off whites, beige, cream and black. There are other colours as well which I like; I’m just not into wearing bright colours.
• What advice would you give to a girl who is about to get married, and is building her jaheyz/wardrobe.
The only advice which I would give is that do not make too many clothes. It was a tradition before to bring along 100 suits as your jahayz or either the groom would gift a 100 suits to the bride. As fashion changes with a blink of the eye, making a lot of clothes would not allow you to fully enjoy them. Make a few fashionable dresses that you can wear with time and buy new ones when needed. Having too much of heavy clothing will leave you waiting to wear them at weddings and other formal functions which do not come that often. Proper casual clothing is very important, as you will need them right after your wedding when people come to visit you.
• What advice would you give to a person who wants to start a career in fashion designing, want to open outlets and go down a similar line as you?
Giving accurate advice in this case is very difficult. A lot of people have sought out advice from me and I always present them with two situations. Either you have a handsome amount for investment purposes or you are very passionate but are low on investment. If you are passionate, you have to work hard and eventually that hard work will pay off.
Promoting yourselves in exhibitions is the best way to establish your name if you want to enter this field. Keeping your cuts, patterns and stitching in such a way that it appeals to everyone along with maintaining reasonable prices will give you an edge. It has become a trend that designer’s prices are out of reach for “aek aam aadmi” (a normal person).
Slowly climb your way up, starting off with exhibitions, press and family. As there are no shortcuts to success, you cannot expect your 500,000 invest to give you a return the very next day.
• What is your favourite cuisine?
I love all food as long as it is delicious, especially Thai food.
• Which dishes does your husband request from you to cook?
My husband likes Afghani plough very much as it is an Afghani Pathaan specialty dish. It is rice cooked with pistachios, almonds and carrots. As Pathans are meat lovers, he especially likes meat that is dried with salt in the winter and a roast which is called roganay josh.
• What kinds of food do you like and dislike?
Everything from lentils, rice and soups I like very much, as long as it is halal, I’ll eat it. I am not that much into meats including siri, brain etc, and my taste buds are very strong so anything with a tangent smell, I try to avoid. People ask me all the time how I maintain my weight after having children.
• Do you like eating out, if so what do enjoy eating out the most?
I do not like to have big meals so instead I always order the best soups and salads of the day. I like having small portions of different things and even at home I serve lots of different salads and starters for my guests.
• Any funny moments TV show/public eye?
During one of my live shows, we received a call from Germany which was very pleasing. In a Punjabi accent the caller commented on my show by saying, “Farah apka show bara acha hay, please humay coconut banana sekhadain” (Your show is very good; please teach us how to make coconuts). I replied by saying, “app coconut cookies ki baath kari hain?” (Are you asking for coconut cookies?). “Naheen main coconut cookies ki baat naheen kari, main vo coconuts ki baath kari hoon jo reryri pe milhay hai, jo straw lagake peethain hain.”( I am not talking about coconut cookies, but coconuts that you find on road stalls and insert straws in to drink from).
My director signalled me to teach him how to make coconuts! In a simple and humble reply I said, “Ye tho Allah he batha sakthain hain ke coconuts kaisay banathay hain!” (Only Allah can tell you how to make coconuts!”). It just comes to show how innocent some people really are.
An incident once occurred when I was in the market. A lady came up to me and said “Apki smile bilkul Farah appa ki thara hain” (You have a smile just like Farah appa), I replied by saying, “oh really!” It is maybe because I am very slim in reality but appear to be slightly larger on TV, so that is why people confuse me to be Farah J Khan younger sister.
While in the studio office, I once received a call from a lady who said she 65-years-old and wanted to meet me. I invited her to my fashion studio and after meeting me said, “I am from Canada and my son is a BA and we are looking for a bahoo (daughter-in-law) in Pakistan. When I saw you, I said that I want a bahoo just like you who has a saleekha. So I have come to see if I can speak to your parents.”
Hearing her out, I replied by saying, “aunty, your 15 years late!”
• What cooking or chef inspires you & who is your favourite Pakistani chef?
I do not really have much time to watch Pakistani cooking shows, but I used to watch the BBC Food channel a lot.
• The easiest and hardest dish to cook?
The easiest would be an egg. Once you start making three dishes in 45 minutes, then you will not find anything difficult with cooking.
• Have you had any disasters in the kitchen?
At the time I was learning how to make a mango mousse cake when I had to repeat it three times because the mousse did not set at the right time. Eventually, I realized the reason for the problem.
When I was demonstrating this recipe to my viewers, I told them straightaway that such a problem can occur and it can be solved in this way. That I believe, has always been the reason for my success because I have always told my viewers of the mistake first and then the solution.
OPINIONS AND GUIDANCE
• What advice would you like to give to a person who wants to do cooking professionally?
In my opinion, if you want to come on television, than your PR must be very good. If not, then you can do a top rated show and then sit at home like me. Pitham’s in Karachi is an example of an institute from which a lot of chefs have done courses.
• Are cooking schools worth attending/who do u think they are most suitable for?
If you truly have a passion for cooking then there is no limit on age or the amount you can learn. Life gives you a new lesson every day; you just need to be prepared to soak it in.
I have learned so much in my life and believe that I am still learning. “Koi Kethain hay k mujhsay acha naheek sikhatha”- “To yeh galath hai,” (Some say that no one can teach better than I can – this is wrong). By believing in such statements, you will have closed the doors to further leaning.
This is the time of technology and everything is so fast paced that you are never the only person to have learned something or the only one who can teach it. You should always keep your mind open in order to learn new things, everyday.
• Please give a full description of how you would host and cook for our Pakistani top celebrities at a dinner party? (Include menu, ambience, décor anything else you like)
There would be a lot of candles and bottle arrangements at a party which I would host. For starters, there would be a variety of soups and salads along with some roast and a variety of drinks as well. The party would be exotic! Soup would start off a party in the winter and if it is during the summer, than fried wings, baked potato wedges and chicken bites served with different dips.
For the main course, I would have two types of curries, korma, karahi, fried chops, baked fish, kebabs and biryani plough. That is if it is a desi menu, than I would have a lot of different options to choose from.
If it is a theme based party, then it is easier and always better to go for themed dishes. Having a Chinese theme would mean making Chinese dishes. Some examples of a themed party would be Chinese, Thai, French and English whish would require relevant decor.
• Which is the best method to learn cooking? (Cooking shows, magazine or cooking classes?)
Learning from books is a good way to improve your cooking. The only condition is that they must be written by well known publishers. I have noticed major errors many times in printed recipes.
The best way is to always learn from your own trials and errors. There are a lot of TV shows who teach very well but some are doing it for promotional purposes only.
• What did you learn in life?
You can achieve anything in life as long as you have the passion for it. I had always wanted to be a successful working women and God has helped me in fulfilling my dreams. I have done my share of hard word to achieve this.
There are leg pullers everywhere, but if you work whole heartedly and honestly, then no one can pull you down. Just remember to never give up, even when life gets tough.
On Behalf of KhanaPakana, we would like to thank you for your valuable time that you have taken out, we wish you best of luck with all your current and future projects, and hope for a healthy and ever-growing relationship between KhanaPakana and yourself InshAllah.