Knorr’s Karachi Chefs at Home Festival has gained a lot of popularity in the year since it launched in 2017.
At first glance, you may think there is nothing special about the event. A bunch of home cooks come together once a year and watch renowned chefs cook for them. It’s no different from a live cooking show on TV, which can easily be seen from the comfort of one’s home. Then why would all these women, 500 to be precise, dedicate an entire Saturday afternoon just be part of the audience of a live cooking show?
There is a lack of social activities for young mothers and housewives in Pakistan
The event, co-hosted by Knorr and Saba Mohsin Sheikh of popular Facebook foodie group Karachi Chefs at Home, brought together home cooks as well as food bloggers and renowned celebrity chefs like Zarnak Sidhwa, Naheed Ansari and Samina Jalil. Three of the most popular home chefs from the group, Saba Mohsin, Mona Ahmed and Kishwar Jaffri, each cooked their specialty dish live on the stage, and there were several other activities and prizes being offered to keep the audience engaged.
Fatima, a 34-year-old mother of four, had spent the entire week leading to festival arranging playdates for her children so she could attend the five-hour event.
"Knorr KCH Chef Fest is not just about the cooking competition, it’s much bigger than that," she shares. "It’s about being part of a community of people who are so different from each other, and yet linked by the love of cooking."
With little to no recreational activities targeted towards middle-aged women in Pakistan, Knorr KCH Chef Fest gives women a chance to socialise and take a break from their hectic lives. Plus, who can ever say no to great food and secret recipes being shared live?
The rise of female-only Facebook groups
KCH or Karachi Chefs at Home started off as a small Facebook group of home chefs sharing recipes with each other. The group has now turned into a strong community of more than 130,000 women who are not only supporting each other in the kitchen with recipes and hacks, but also providing each other a sense of belonging.
When I walked into Knorr KCH Chef Fest at around 3:30pm, the event had already kicked off, with Kiran Khan hosting what was being called a 'buzzer round' with the audience. The event had a live menu - the appetisers, main dishes and desserts were all to be prepared on stage and served to the audience. As I looked around, I couldn’t help but notice all these beautiful talented women from all sorts of backgrounds, engrossed in their surroundings and just enjoying each other's company.
It is then that I decided to find out what they found so interesting.
The first group of women I spoke to was quite diverse - and included housewives, working moms, and single working women. Although they had spoken to each other many times before on the KCH group, it was the first time they were actually meeting each other in real life. For most, it was the first time in years that they had socialised with anyone outside their circle of family and friends, and they couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity to do so.
I also met Aisha and Narjis, both from a private insurance company, who had taken the day off to attend Knorr KCH Chef Fest. Although neither of them cooked too often, the festival was a perfect break from their busy work lives. After all, no one minds being served a five-course meal - all prepared by celebrity chefs.
The event also had a cooking contest, and only five of the hundreds of recipes submitted were shortlisted for the final competition. These were further cut down to three finalists who then had a live cook-off with each other. Home based chef Fariha Bilal bagged the title of the Chef of the Year and was also awarded a trophy. All of the other participants took home special giveaways and a Knorr gift basket, containing everything from a multi-purpose chopper, to fresh goodies and discount vouchers.
After speaking to so many women for an hour and a half, I walked out with an open mind about how a mere 'live cooking show' can be a breath of fresh air for many. Hopefully, the trend of arranging social events for women will catch on in Pakistan, so women of all ages and backgrounds can engage in healthy activities and interact with each other without for once worrying about their kids, work, or the seemingly impossible question of 'what to cook today.'
This content was produced in paid partnership with Knorr Pakistan.