Nepal Minute - out of the ordinary

Travel & Tourism

Achyut Regmi

Professional kitchens are demanding workplaces, and they are even more demanding for women. There is not much room for advancement. 

Most of the kitchens at star hotels in Nepal are led by male chefs. Despite the odds, there are success stories. 

A four-star hotel in Thamel, a popular tourist hub in the capital Kathmandu, has a woman chef as the first-ever executive leader in the country’s culinary industry.

Bhoj Kumari Shah has been at the helm of the kitchen at Thamel-based American chain hotel Ramada Encore Kathmandu for the past month.

Born in Itahari in 1986, Shah completed her schooling at Sunsari-based Pathivara English School.

"My parents wanted me to pursue nursing. But I cherished my interest towards hotel management. My elder brother supported me in nurturing my dream of hotel management education," she recalled.

Shah completed her Diploma in Hospitality Management from Good Shepherd Institute of Hospitality Management, Kalimpong, Darjeeling and Diploma in Hotel Management from Indian School of Business Management College, Jaipur. 

The number of female students pursuing hotel management at that time was few and far between, Shah added but she knew she wanted to become a head chef from an early age. 

Her experience growing up in her mother’s kitchen and her work ethic fueled that passion. 

Shah took over the kitchen after graduation in 2006, starting an internship at The Lalit Hotel in Goa, India. 

Her unwavering passion and dedication took Shah to many top-notch hotels across India and beyond. 

She accumulated experience at The Park Hotel Visakhapatnam, India; Novotel Hotel Hyderabad, India; Amanbag Hotel Jayapur, India; The Lodhi Hotel, New Delhi, India; Jehan Numa Palace Bhopal, India; Ulnada Resort and Spa, Oman. 

"Most of the star hotels feature men chefs,” said Shah, who was working as an executive chef at Centre Point Hotel and Resort Nagpur Maharashtra, India until Kathmandu-based Ramada came calling. 

“After an arduous struggle in the kitchen for 16 long years, I have finally landed this position,” I am fully satisfied with my profession and performance. I feel proud to introduce myself as an executive chef in the food industry," she said.

Developed at a cost of Rs2.5 billion, the 90-room Ramada Hotel was launched during the pandemic. The nine-storied four-star property has two restaurants among other amenities, according to the hotel’s general manager, Mahesh Phuyal. 

The hotel has been serving a range of delicacies for domestic and foreign tourists according to their tastes. "We are serving Spanish, Arabic, Turkish and Moroccan food through one restaurant and Pan-Asian and Indian food through the other," Phuyal said.

As many as 1,500 chefs are affiliated with the Chefs Association of Nepal, an umbrella organisation of Nepali chefs established in 1996. But only 15 women chefs are associated with the organisation, according to association Chair Shyam Bahadur Lama. The data shows that women chefs constitute only 1 per cent of total chefs working in Nepal.

"This is the first time that a female executive chef has been associated with the association," Lama said.

Chairperson of Global Nepalese Chefs Federation and senior chef Laxman Prasad Bhandari said it was a matter of pride for the Nepali chef community to see a woman chef landing an executive position at a start hotel in Nepal.

Chief Executive of the Hotel Association of Nepal Tek Mahat said, "We have seen foreign women taking up the responsibility of chef in Nepali hotels. This is the first time we have encountered a Nepali woman executive chef at a star hotel in Nepal."

With RSS inputs

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