Inspiring Women: Interview with Chef Tala

by BTM

Wed, 08 March 2023

Chef Tala Bashmi at The Gulf Hotel Bahrain

The award-winning Chef Tala Bashmi was the first recipient of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ ‘MENA’s Best Female Chef’ award in 2022. She further advanced in the culinary world recently when she was awarded three more titles for her restaurant, Fusions By Tala at The Gulf Hotel.

She speaks to Farah Baig about cooking in an effort to raise Bahrain and the region’s cuisine to world-class levels, while imparting some sound advice for young women on the occasion of International Women’s Day.

The finest of ingredients, meticulous plating and a focus on creating a truly distinct dining experience has earned Fusions By Tala a trio of accolades at the MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants awards by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. At the helm of the award-winning restaurant is none other than the Bahraini Chef, Tala Bashmi - a true master of her craft.

The restaurant received the ‘Best Restaurant in Bahrain’, ‘No. 3 Best Restaurant in MENA’ and the ‘Highest Climber’ award. “Hard work, grit, sheer determination, and sticking to what we believe in has been our recipe for success. It is a lot easier to give people food that they are familiar with, food that they ‘want’ - but to create food, or a way of eating that they may not have experienced before is much more rewarding,” says Chef Tala.

Chef Tala, now world-renowned, was recently part of the jury for SP Young Chef Academy for Middle East, Africa and South Asia alongside Chef Siba Mtongana and Chef Selassie Atadika. However, she had previously dedicated her life to being a professional soccer player – a passion for which she went to the US for college. Following an injury, she moved to London where she studied fine arts and illustration before moving home.

“But even back when I was 17 and graduating high school, I remember thinking, ‘Would it be so crazy if I wanted to go to culinary school?’. I had the realisation that you can turn a person’s day around with a good meal,” adds the Swiss-trained chef.

Fusions By Tala is among the first restaurants in the region to raise local and regional flavours to world-class levels – a move that makes them truly special. Black lime, safi, mehyawa and cardamom are just some of the quintessential local flavours that can be enjoyed as part of the restaurant’s culinary artistry. “We focus on using regional and seasonal ingredients when they are available and that is an important part of my cooking philosophy,” she states. “Local products are key to telling the story and allowing my guests to try things they may have never experienced before.” 

According to Chef Tala, the key factors that make a good dish are flavour first and foremost, followed by identity. “I find it important to be able to see the chef’s identity shine through their dishes because that is our unique footprint in the culinary world,” she says.

Being a successful woman in the world of gastronomy, Chef Tala concludes with some advice for young women wishing to enter the culinary field: “Work hard, don’t take shortcuts, work without ego, and utilise all of your time wisely. Teach yourself even if others won’t teach you, and be hungry to learn new things every day.”

To keep up with Chef Tala, follow @tala.bashmi and @fusionsbytala on Instagram.