With her undeniable grit, creativity and energy, it isn’t a surprise Tala Bashmi has managed to nab the first-ever Middle East & North Africa (MENA)’s Best Female Chef Award. The young and dynamic Bahraini chef, who is dedicated to honouring her heritage one scrumptious meal at a time, received the accolade at the inaugural MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022 awards ceremony, which was recently held in Abu Dhabi.
“I hope people will finally be able to see us and our food in an interesting light. It brings attention to the origins of our cuisine, as an island and port, Bahrain is historically where so many spices were traded,” Bashmi told 50 Best while talking about the award that aims to back and foster inclusivity in the culinary field and help female role models inspire younger women. “I feel like it's our time to shine, as Bahrain and as the Middle East. Because we really love food in this region!
The culinary whizz, who has overcome many obstacles, including sexism, to get to the top of her game, is often referred to as the spirit of modern Bahraini cuisine. As well as reinventing Middle Eastern cuisine for younger people from the region, she aims to introduce it in an elevated way to those who have never tasted it before. At her restaurant, Fusions by Tala, which landed a number 39 position on the MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022 list, customers get to indulge in new takes on regional classics. For example, Bamia, a signature okra stew, has been given a spin with wagyu beef cheek, crispy okra glass and tomato broth rice, while the Shrimp Jereesh is made up of prawns, lumi and orange butter sauce. Additionally, the traditional lamb and rice dish called Ghoozi is turned into a Ghoozi Tacos starter made of lamb shoulder, ma’abooch aioli and crispy onions. Meanwhile, the Baklawa is a delectable mix of filo pastry, saffron ice cream, mango and orange blossom. As well as indulging in the delicious surprise tasting menu or à la carte options, guests at the eatery in Manama’s renowned five-star Gulf Hotel Bahrain get to enjoy an entertaining dining experience with a terrace lounge for pre- and post-dinner drinks, open kitchen and buzzing service style.
About Tala Bashmi
Tala Bashmi started her love affair with food at a young age. Her father, a foodie, would take her to vist Manama’s souks, and she would find joy in cooking with him for the family. However, her initial goal was to be a professional football player until she sustained an injury when she was at college in the US, which put an abrupt stop to that dream. Bashmi, who admires world-famous chefs like Grant Achatz and Heston Blumenthal, then moved to London and studied Illustration and Fine Art before returning back home.
The talented chef’s first cooking venture started in 2012 with Baked by T, a home-based business. And with its success, Bashmi was encouraged to pursue a more formal gastronomic avenue. The charming go-getter who wants to stir some nostalgia through her dishes became a trainee chef at the Gulf Hotel, a stint that included a management training programme. As part of the scheme, she spent two years training at the Culinary Arts Academy in Lucerne, Switzerland and gained a master’s degree in International Business in Culinary Management.
Her time abroad, where she worked at Basel’s Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois and Michelin-starred restaurant Prisma, taught her resilience and made her realise she really did want to be a chef for the rest of her life. She also learnt how to run restaurant operations and work in fast-paced kitchen environments. Bashmi, who reached the final of MBC’s “Top Chef Middle East” once back home in Bahrain, worked her way up to sous chef for the hotel. She was then given a chance to spin her magic for the restaurant that was then called Fusions. After she managed to turn it around, it was renovated and relaunched as Fusions by Tala in February 2020.