Friday, November 24

Assia Othman: A Savor of Goodness

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Assia Othman is a well-known name among female Facebookers. She is getting so much attention from housewives who are looking for creative, delicious recipes. Alongside, she managed to gain a lot of respect and love by them because of her constant interaction and humble responses. Her accumulated experience over the years qualified her to publish 3 cookbooks all written, photographed and styled by her. And now she has 2 TV shows targeting different segments. She is a housewife who decided to turn big in a domain she loves and this lead her to become a huge inspiration to a lot of women seeking to excel out there. Through this heart-to-heart interview, Assia will tell us how it all happened and what she still wishes to come…

Q. Tell us about yourself and your journey with cooking and food styling.
I am a 30-year-old Moroccan, married to an Egyptian and a mother of two children. I started my career in the business field but, like many women, I turned into a housewife after marriage. It was very difficult for me to stay at home doing nothing. But my homestay made me realize that I am so into arts. So I decided to take classes in the field of furniture design. By pure coincidence, I was introduced to a group of ladies on Facebook who later became my best friends and support team. They added me to a cook group called ‘What shall we eat today?’ and this is where it all began. I started by sharing recipes and very humble photographs; and being the only Moroccan in the group, I introduced them to some Moroccan recipes and this turned out to be one of my main attractions.

Q. What triggered you to start in the cooking field?
I was not satisfied with the quality of my photographs. So I started searching online for websites that introduced me to a whole new world about cooking that made me realize there’s much more to cooking than just ingredients and recipes. I took online courses; this is where I started learning about the world of food styling and photography. And being in the UAE was a huge plus for me because it helped me interact with diverse cuisines and cultures around. I was hesitant at the beginning to take this to a more serious step; yet my husband, mother-in-law and friends encouraged me and saluted me with every upgrade. The learning process was also financially costly, but yet my hubby always there for me  I started out in magazines, then I created my own blog and Facebook group. Later, I transformed this portfolio into my own cookbook, using my own recipes and photographs. My first book was dedicated to my mother and grandmother who taught me everything. The book was a huge success and was considered the first Middle-Eastern Moroccan cookbook. I also became a consultant and food stylist at many magazines, in addition to having my own show ‘ Sett El Beit’. I also launched my online magazine ‘Beram & Tajine’ with my sister and dear partner, which turned out to be a huge success as well.

Q. Cooking and Food Styling is becoming a trend nowadays, how do you create an edge for yourself?
I think most of those in the field imitate and do not get the real idea behind food styling. It is quite important to see a lot of photos and be inspired by them and then create your own vision. Photos are created by the feelings you get from the recipes and ingredients. This is what creates a unique image and this is what I believe to be my edge.

Q. What was your fans’ feedback about your books and shows?
When I first started, I received a lot of negative and sarcastic feedback. Yet, this never put me down. On the contrary, it forced me to work harder. I remember an editor, in one of the first magazines I worked for, who asked me to look for a professional photographer because my photos were not good enough. This was a turning point that taught me to be innovative. Now I have a fan base from different targets with diverse needs. I try my best to serve them all, and I usually get positive feedback from the ladies, mentioning that they appreciate my simplicity and ease of explanation. I am always willing to hear a few negative comments that positively help me develop my work.

Q. What was the most annoying or sarcastic comment you got from a hater?
I don’t have haters. But sometimes people refuse the twist in some of my recipes and the comments are like what is that?? What is the taste? Is it really nice? Otherwise, till now, I didn’t get any sarcastic comment hamdolah.

Q. What’s the weirdest thing that ever inspired you?
Bollywood films! I am kind of person who likes to watch Indian movies to bring new spirit, ideas, colors and twist to my work. I don’t exactly know the relation between them both, but whenever I need to renovate my work, I watch 2 or 3 Bollywood movies, and I’m sure to get a new twist after 

Q. Who are your role models in the business and what makes them stand out?
Martha Stewart. Especially that I use both styling and cooking in my work. This requires a lot of DIY and sometimes extreme measures such as dying appliances and containers myself. I generally like to watch a lot of people like Jenny Morris and Reza Muhammed. I also love the simplicity of Choumicha who is a Moroccan chef.

Q. What is the IT factor behind Assia Othman’s recipes?
I blend Western recipes with Eastern recipes and try to create something very unique. I also create Gourmet dishes out of traditional and Oriental recipes.

Q. What is the IT quality that every chef must have?
Simplicity and lack of arrogance.

Q. In your opinion what ingredient has the power to transform the recipe?
Loving what you do reflects on your recipe.

Q. What was the most unique recipe you have ever created?
Spices and Dates Um Ali.

Out and About

– Men should understand… They are our big support for success.

– People I can’t live without… My husband and children.

– Things I can’t live without… My camera and props.

– My IT inspiration is… Manuela, the owner of ‘Passion for Baking’.

– Words I Live by… It is a French quote: Je reviendrai vainqueur, ou ne reviendrai pas. (I shall return a victor or not at all)

By Reham Meky

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