I interviewed with chef Haya Emaan, of Jean Georges restaurant in Manhattan, about what her career means to her. Her message: Go for what you want, and the universe will say “Yes.”
What is your style of cooking?
My style of cooking and my end goal is that it should appeal to the senses-it should look beautiful, taste wonderful, and on some level, appeal to the person eating it. That want for appealing to who I cook for, is probably the core reason why I am attracted towards learning about different cuisines and techniques, and towards expanding my skill set and palate. I try to look for a learning experience in everything. I also feel that my quest for the study of food, ingredients and cooking style is probably deeply rooted in my cultural background and my personal ambition — which is to put Pakistani food on the world map and elevate it to a cuisine. “
Carissa: I would love to know more about Pakistani food.
Haya: Pakistani food is so unknown
and its identity so fused with Indian cuisine that I believe that its
uniqueness, its flavors, and its faithfulness to its ingredients,
needs to be brought to the forefront by the use of the traditional,
but with a focus on catering to the more sophisticated culinary
palate. It is my ambition that perhaps one day, when people hear
the name of Pakistan, rather than evoking images of terrorism
and extremism, it would evoke tantalizing images of mouthwatering
food and seductive spices — and perhaps a celebrated
Michelin star restaurant!
Carissa: In what ways would you say your culture has impacted your cooking?
Haya: It was the toughest thing in the world for me to make my family and friends understand that I wanted to be a professional chef! Pakistani culture revolves around hospitality and food, and women in my country are expected to cook, and while being a good cook is appreciated and considered a
necessity to make a good marriage, it is not considered as a
‘career’ or ‘profession’ per se. So while in Pakistan cooking
could be someone’s talent, there is rarely any appreciation for a
technique associated with it — or heavens forbid the concept that
it is something that requires any formal study! But as they say, if
you want something enough the world conspires to allow you to
get it. My very family — whose mindsets I had endeavored to
change — are now my biggest supporters in this profession.
Carissa: I understand that Jean Georges is known for its French food. Are you able to incorporate Pakistani food into that?
Haya: I specialize in French- American cuisine when at work. When I’m home, I love to entertain and throw dinner parties. I cook for chefs and colleagues a lot.
Madia with summer radishes and vinaigrette.
Mushroom salad with peanut dressing.
Trout sashimi, bergamot dressing, with ginger, red finger chiles, radishes and chives.
Madam sashimi with concord grapes and Madai cilantro.
Foiegras with summer granola, dehydrated strawberries and strawberry powder.
Tomato salad with berries & cucumber, seasoned with olive oil, balsamic, and micro basil.
A Jean Georges classic: Tuna ribbons with radishes, avocado, and radish sprouts. Served with a soy ginger sauce and chili oil.
Madia with radishes and vinaigrette
Lahori Chargha & Saffron Rice