Chef Jaheda Begum: Empowering women through culinary skills


Published: March 8, 2024, 12:23 PM

Chef Jaheda Begum: Empowering women through culinary skills

Photo: Courtesy

Jaheda Begum is the head of Food and Beverage Production (Cooking Training) at the National Hotel and Tourism Training Institute (NHTTI) in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

She has been a trainer for 21 years, creating skilled chefs. Many women she has trained up are now entrepreneurs, chefs, and home delivery caterers in Bangladesh and abroad.

Some have opened their own cooking schools, and many regularly appear on TV, YouTube, and Facebook cooking shows.

Jaheda shared her story of life and career with UNB on international women’s day.

She started her career in 1995 at Limo Electronics as a marketing executive. In 1998, she worked as a trainee officer at the Sheraton Hotel Dhaka (now Hotel InterContinental).

When she started her training career, Jaheda noticed that very few women came to learn how to be chefs.

“I found that their families often discourage them. However, women are the best achievers in kitchens worldwide. In Bangladesh, this was not the case due to misconceptions about women‍‍`s safety in the hotel and restaurant industry,” she said.

“I started counseling the parents, husbands, and families of women interested in becoming chefs.”

Jaheda‍‍`s efforts have encouraged women to become chefs and take training.

“Many of my students are now successful entrepreneurs, chefs, and home delivery caterers. Some have opened their own cooking schools, and many regularly appear on TV, YouTube, and Facebook cooking shows,” she said.

Jaheda is a training specialist and consultant for various organisations outside her workplace. She also works on various topics, including safe food, hygiene, nutrition, tourism, technical training, and industrial kitchen setup.

She has received numerous awards and recognitions for her work, both in Bangladesh and abroad. In January 2023, she received the WYO Spirit and Knife Skills Award at the Young Chef Olympiad in India. She has previously won the Ambassador Award, International Skills Award, Best Mentor Award, and Welcome Skills Award at the Young Chef Olympiad. In 2024, she won two more awards at the same competition.

In 2022, Jaeda received a special award for promoting and branding Bangladeshi traditional food at the Bengal Business Summit in Kolkata, India.

She has also received the Innovation Award from the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism, the National Integrity Award from the government, and the Best Performer of the Year (2015) from the Bangladesh Tourism Corporation.
Jaheda believes that women have made significant progress due to the government‍‍`s long-standing focus on women and its sincere efforts. “However, women are still far from the desired goal,” she said.

“Women hesitate to build careers in the tourism sector due to social barriers, in addition to childbirth and childrearing. Their parents and husbands need to support women in building careers in the hotel, restaurant, and culinary sectors,” said Jaheda.

However, recently, several universities and colleges in Bangladesh have introduced tourism as a subject, and many female students are enrolling.

Jaheda firmly believes that women can achieve remarkable success as chefs if they broaden their horizons and receive family support.

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