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Sunday, January 17, 2021

Female foodpreneurs: Bushra Khan on her journey with Lean Nation, Painted Chopstick and La Jawaab

Sometimes, we have to let in growth and passion and mold them into a brighter role model for our children.


“Oh, but you were so smart…”

“Playing Mom still?”

“This? After Bloomberg?!”


The barbed comments would usually slide off me – after all, I knew I was exactly where I wanted to be most – at home, with my daughter, who was the centre of my world. The years passed fast, until one day she asked me, in the innocent ways of children, why I wasn’t anything other than Ma. That question burned. For the first time it burned hard and fierce. Sometimes, I love you isn’t enough, I realized. Sometimes, we have to let in growth and passion and mold them into a brighter role model for our children. 

Surf and turf created for Lean Nation

Just as my outlook changed, an opportunity fell into my lap, to be managing partner and culinary advisor at Lean Eats, situated then at Chef’s Table. From the get-go, I was fortunate; my partner looked past the home-maker tag, past my headscarf, and asked me only if he could trust me. Thus, ironically having asked for the most valued part of me, I threw my all into it. I learnt early on that commercial kitchen required strict work ethics and long, hard hours. At the same time, you needed to be patient, learn to literally multi-task, communicate clearly and grow strong, thick skin. And be efficient, always.

I could say it was all a struggle, but it really wasn’t. I was determined to tackle everything and take every failure as a win. Within weeks, our sales started climbing, until, by the end of the fifth month, we had taken our sales up by a multiple of ten!

Suddenly, people I had previously approached for work or a venture to no fruition, wanted in on the food industry through me, fully funded! Yet, my most cherished moments would be watching my daughter, swinging her legs from a bar tool, mouth full of our healthy brownie, her eyes wide in wonder and tracing everything I do. 


An assortment of healthy treats from Lean Nation

Lean Eats was a stepping stone to becoming a partner at its sister-concern, Lean Nation, a healthy food catering company. The confidence I had built in my own work, combined with earning others’ trust in me propelled me into opening The Painted Chopstick, a restaurant serving Indian-Chinese with chefs from Kolkata’s own Chinatown. As I enjoyed bringing my child to work, it wasn’t a surprise move to open Play House, currently Dhaka’s largest soft-play area for kids, with an attached café with easy eats for parents and kids. My most recent work involves a Cloud Kitchen, with La Jawaab being one of its first brands.

With the unfortunate situation of Covid-19, the future is somewhat uncertain. But I firmly believe that all upheavals come with opportunities. Right now, the only way forward is to be flexible, innovative and with a mindset that takes every setback as a thing of learning. Food is love for people everywhere, it is just a matter of how you bring that love to their plate.

*Bushra Khan can be found at bushra_instamom on Instagram and Bushra Khan on Facebook

[ Female foodpreneurs is a joint series by Taramon and The Food Talk to share the journeys of some of Bangladesh’s most inspirational culinary queens ]

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