Private chef Saima Khan explains how she went from banking to cooking – with the help of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates
- Private chef Saima Khan, 45, was working as a banker five years ago
- She had always had a talent for cooking and hosted lots of dinner parties
- A chance meeting with Warren Buffett made her pursue a career in food
Private chef Saima Khan, 45, founded The Hampstead Kitchen in 2012. Single, she lives in North London.
Five years ago I was a banker, working between London and New York. I’d always hosted dinner parties and people knew I had a talent for cooking, but it never crossed my mind to pursue a career in food.
Then I got a phone call from a friend begging a favour. A big one. That evening, her aunt was expecting 18 guests at her London home for a seven-course wedding anniversary dinner — but the private chef she’d booked had cancelled on her.
I’ve always liked testing myself. My businessman father, who came from Pakistan in the Sixties, taught me to relish a challenge. So I said I’d step in.
The cuisine was supposed to be French a la carte but I took the lamb, quail and beef and with handfuls of spice, cooked up Persian and Middle Eastern dishes instead. Dinner went down a storm, and by the end I had several guests wanting to hire me for their own events.
Yet that wasn’t my light bulb moment — not really. I was still a banker earning a fabulous salary in the City. Why would I give that up?
Not long after, I found myself in the departure lounge at Omaha airport in the mid-western state of Nebraska. I was working for Berkshire Hathaway, the company run by legendary U.S. investor and businessman Warren Buffett, and there, sitting reading the paper, was the man himself. We got talking about work and, after a while, about food. And then he asked me, very wisely, when I was last truly excited.
In that instant I had the courage to admit that cooking for my friend’s aunt had been the greatest thrill.
A few weeks later, Warren Buffett invited himself to my apartment in New York for a curry. He’d asked along another guest too — Bill Gates (who also loves curry). After lots of buttered chapatti, he convinced me to set up a business in food.
Since then, I’ve cooked for famous people from Angelina Jolie to Mark Zuckerberg. But I’ve always kept in touch with Warren, whom I regard as a friend and mentor.