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The BoF Podcast | Asma Khan and Judy Joo Discuss How Food Can Be a Vehicle for Tolerance and Cross-Cultural Sharing

The two restaurateurs share what it’s like building female-owned businesses and educating their customers through food.
The BoF Podcast | Asma Khan and Judy Joo Discuss How Food Can Be a Vehicle for Tolerance and Cross-Cultural Sharing
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Background:

Food may be a universal experience, but the culinary world has a long patriarchal history. Throughout their own tenures in the industry, chef and philanthropist Asma Khan, who owns London’s Darjeeling Express restaurant, and restaurateur and author Judy Joo, who operates the eatery Seoul Bird, faced a long line of roadblocks. At BoF VOICES, both shared how they struggled to find restaurant spaces, were talked over in meetings and consistently saw Western cuisines prized above all else.

But it was through their respective journeys that Joo and Khan realised the depth of the relationship between food and politics, and how it can be used to help open people’s minds.

This week on The BoF Podcast, Khan and Joo discussed being women of colour in the male-dominated food world, as well as how food can be a vehicle for cross-cultural sharing and acceptance.

“The more you learn about other cultures, you learn about tolerance, you learn about mindfulness, and you learn to respect each other more,” said Joo.

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Key Insights:

  • After working in careers in law and finance, both Joo and Khan’s passion for cooking pushed them to pursue careers in food. “I pursued a career in fixed income derivatives for about five or six years, and then I had an epiphany and I decided, you know, I can’t chase a pay cheque anymore,” said Joo. “I really want to chase my passion… I just wanted to cook and eat.
  • Patriarchal structures are reflected in the way the people eat, something Khan witnessed firsthand growing up. “I learned as a young woman in India that in our society, in every meal, women ate last, girls ate least, this was how it was,” said Khan.
  • While hosting “supper clubs” out of her own kitchen, Khan more deeply understood how difficult it was to draw a line between food and culture. “I want to tell people you cannot take my food and separate culture from it. I won’t let you eat it… You break bread with me. You have a conversation about my food,” said Khan.
  • Though she — and her cuisine — have faced prejudice, Joo said Korean pop culture like “Squid Game” and “Money Heist: Korea” has opened more people’s eyes. “Food is so often the entry point to learning about a new culture,” she said.

Additional Resources:

  • BoF VOICES 2022: Creativity and Its Power to Change: From South Korea and Japan to Ghana and Ukraine, speakers including Fast Retailing’s Koji Yanai, photographer Campbell Addy and stylist Julie Pelipas discussed the power of culture and creativity in the fourth session of BoF’s annual conference for big thinkers.
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