“I run a Pakistani food startup”
In 2014, Numra quit her job as a documentary researcher at the BBC and opened the street food stall, Bun Kabab, catering her home style menu at various events across London. Three years later, she launched a new venture, Empress Market - her first permanent restaurant, as well hosting supper clubs and manning popup stalls around the city.
1.What is Empress Market and why did you start it?
Empress Market serves traditional Pakistani home cooking and authentic street food with a nod to modern London lifestyle. It is my personal exploration of British-Pakistani food and culture in London, the city I call home.
I launched Empress Market to share a fresh perspective on modern Pakistani identity through my grandmother’s recipes. These are the dishes she brought with her when she moved to London and they allow me to connect with where I’ve come from. I describe my cooking as Pakistani folk cuisine, food with a depth of flavour that brings people together to create community.
2. What are your main sources of inspiration?
My foodie peers are probably my greatest inspiration. I binge watch cooking programs - Chef’s Table and Ugly Delicious being my favourite - and I read cookbooks like bedtime stories! Social Media is great for foodie inspo as well, I’m often screen grabbing creative plates of food and can spend hours scrolling through chefs’ profiles!
But beyond the food, it’s the personal stories that really get me. I find it really inspiring hearing stories of determination in the face of adversity. The against all odds attitudes of chefs and artists who’ve been told they can’t do it. Whenever I’m feeling down about work, I watch the Niki Nakayama episode of Chef’s Table!
3. Favourite read over the last year?
4. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
I want to be best friends with Samin Nosrat. Can you please make this happen?
5. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
Treating everything like water off a duck’s back! I have the bad habit of taking my work very personally. This makes me very passionate about what I do but I need to learn how to separate me from Empress Market.
6. For what in your life do you feel most grateful for?
Family and good friends. I don’t think I’d be able to have run Empress Market for as long as I have, had it not been for my support network. My folks help me beyond the call of duty and my siblings and friends have all had their trial by fire working at my pop-up events. You can’t go it on your own, running a business, without a strong tribe behind you.
Read more from Numra in the Brexit Roundtable featured in POSTSCRIPT’s Issue 1.