From Pakistan to Chopped, Fatima Ali Brings a New Narrative to the Table

Caitlin Adams
Sep 1, 2016 · 2 min read

Twenty-seven year old Fatima Ali is petite and unassuming. Clad in a white T-shirt and baseball hat, her demeanor is casual as she cooks for Smorgasburg festival attendees on a warm Sunday in Brooklyn. But behind-the-scenes, the chef is on a mission to break down cultural barriers and make a name for herself in the culinary industry.

Ali was born and raised in Pakistan, a country that traditionally limits women professionally.

“Historically the professional kitchen has always been a male dominated one,” she said. “A girl from Pakistan in one of those male-dominated kitchens in usually rare.”

The struggle for female chefs is a topic that has sparked conversation in the media, including an article recommended by award-winning food writer Carolyn Jung.

“Being a female chef has its advantages and disadvantages.” — Fatima Ali

With the support of her family, Ali left behind her familiar life to pursue a culinary career in New York City.

It was this tenacity that landed her on an episode of The Food Network’s TV show Chopped. Ali won the competition after creating culinary masterpieces from ingredients like chicken intestines, cherry cola and egg white powder.

Former Chopped winner turns heads with modern take on Pakistani cuisine

Fatima Ali is the rare female chef in a male-dominated profession. She serves up her Pakistani food with a twist in a Brooklyn food stall, VanPakistan.

Selling Out at Smorgasburg

Ali’s latest endeavor outside from her catering business is serving patrons at the Smorgasburg food festival in Prospect Park, Brooklyn.

Ali explains the process behind her signature festival dish, a take on a traditional Pakistani snack called chaat:

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