Long Beach, CA


Hi, I am Rubina Khan from Chitral, Northern Pakistan, an under-privileged society where cultural restrictions do not allow women to breathe in freedom and pursue their dreams. Fortunately for me, my father was my inspiration and foundation, the strength that drove me to explore the world and challenge the limitations of being a girl in an oppressive society. My childhood memories are not that of a regular child growing up in the West. I did not have time to play with other kids, go to parks, buy candies and toys or enjoy rides. I was raised in a family of eight by a warm caring father and loving mother. We were happy and content living on a combined monthly income of $30.

At the age of 11, I started helping my father with his road side food stall. He would prepare food and I would clean the dishes. I used to go to school in the mornings and would work him till midnight. I would walk beside my father from one road to another, holding his hand and thinking, what a wonderful life this is, where I feed people and it makes them happy. This is what I will do all my life, I used to think to myself.

In the summer of 2004, I had an opportunity to intern at the Marriott International Hotel, Islamabad. At the time, there were no women allowed in the kitchen. The kitchen was dominated by male chefs and assistants. Women were shunted into roles that typically entailed customer service, front desk, tele-sales and the like. I originally went to intern at the front desk but as I passed the hotel kitchen I realized I belonged in the kitchen not front desk. After much resistance, I was given an interview with the executive chef, who gave me the opportunity to be the trainee in kitchen. He became my mentor and pushed me beyond my limits. In no time, I became the first woman of my country to work as a chef. I was only 18 years old.

In 2006, I got a scholarship to study Hospitality Management at the College of Tourism and Hotel Management in Lahore, while working fulltime as a chef at night. In July 2007, I received a Fulbright scholarship from USEFP to study Hotel and Tourism Management in Seattle, Washington. Upon my return to Islamabad, I joined Marriott Hotel Islamabad as a Chef de Partie. After graduating in 2012, I received an opportunity and moved to Memphis to be a Co-Owner and Executive Chef at Petra Café, A Mediterranean restaurant. Two years later I was married and moved with my husband to Los Angeles.

Now, an Executive Chef at Surfas Culinary District, I am always eager to share new recipes with colleagues and friends. I love to teach and serve my clients food that they will always remember. I want to show them what an amazing experience it is to create flavors, to understand the alchemy of food and convert that into a palatable experience that soothes. And lastly, a message for girls all around world and particularly from my country: we have an undying stamina, a drive, a push within us, and we just need to put all of that to an end that is satisfying. Only then can we be happy.