one of the most exclusive and fine dine restaurants in Pakistan.
Starting with meager savings, bubbling passion, 18 years of experience in the Food and Beverage industry and a staff of 6 people in the kitchen, Ayaz Khan left his permanent job with Sheraton Hotels and ventured into Okra about 15 years ago.
“I felt I could express myself better
if I managed something of my own”
White wooden chairs, blue wooden blinds, white washed fans and walls, with a wooden staircase Okra houses about 40 food enthusiasts at one time. Starting off with Pakistani cuisine Ayaz soon moved to a different level of perfection, quality, freshness and wholesomeness by providing eclectic Mediterranean food. His kitchen staff now comprises of 26 hard working and constantly trained people.
Ayaz feels that the largest problem in this industry is human resource. He passionately related how it has taken him 11 years to train his current staff amongst many who came, trained and left and some are now employed in Australia, UK and the Middle East. He diligently works on damage control, customer service, hygiene, sanitation and quality control with his staff, which he feels is never enough.
Thriving on his own passion, input from his customers, competition all around and credence in what Ayaz puts forth on the plate is the secret of Okra’s success.
“I think competition is like a positive threat,
I deal with it like a challenge”
smiles the confident entrepreneur as he slowly sipped his milky tea.
Research, experimenting, final plating of his classic geniuses sometimes takes many weeks and sometimes is wrapped up over night. As part of his HR training Ayaz insists on readily accepting input and negative feedback of his customers. He fanned his hand around in complete denial when asked how he relates to positive feedback.
“ I think it is poison”
conjectured the man
Ayaz takes pride in making soups in his home kitchen and if he were to eat at Okra, Ayaz loves the simple grilled fish with fresh herbs and olive oil and if he were to venture out he either visits Sakura or Barbeque Tonight. My interview with him was extremely enjoyable and ended soon after he finished his tea. I wonder if he were to eat okra itself perhaps he could try the recipe I prepared for the blog – the Cumin Spiced Roasted Okra.
Okra is dressed with olive oil, dried herbs, seasoning and cumin, and then jolted under high heat. The result is thin okra strips softly taking pride in its dress, can be eaten as an appetizer or as a side with grilled meat. I decided to serve it with some crispy garlic bread and crunchy walnuts. The recipe can easily be doubled or tripled depending upon need.
When asked what advice Ayaz would give to all the new foodie entrepreneurs he insists on loads of research, cooking in the home kitchen, feeding friends and family, accepting all the input and last but not the least be prepared to make mistakes.