Although Tala Bashmi fell in love with food while visiting Manama’s souks with her father and absorbing his home-cooking knowledge at a young age, it is her unparalleled drive that has allowed her to get to the top of the gastronomic profession. With her restaurant Fusions by Tala at the renowned Gulf Hotel Bahrain, today she is laying down the groundwork for a revolution in Middle Eastern food.
Bashmi made her first foray into the culinary industry in 2012 with Baked by T, a home-based business selling her creations – which she described as ‘whimsical, experimental and always made from scratch’. Her success prompted her to seek a more formal gastronomic education and she became a trainee chef at the Gulf Hotel, which included two years of training at the Culinary Arts Academy in Lucerne, Switzerland.
Bashmi debuted the modern Bahraini style that would become her signature on her return to her home region, as she competed and reached the final of Top Chef Middle East. She took over as chef-patron at what was then Fusions in 2018, leading its renovation and relaunch as Fusions by Tala in February 2020.
The Bahraini chef says that her experiences in Europe – including luxury hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants – showed her both the potential of cuisine as a medium of communication and the hardships of running a high-stress, high-stakes business. She took these learnings to heart and applies them daily at Fusions by Tala, where a large open kitchen allows diners a full view into her harmonious place of work.
Seeing every meal as a multi-faceted experience, this young talented cook strives to inspire a sense of nostalgia through her dishes, which often take inspiration from traditional recipes. Ghoozi – a dish of lamb served on a bed of aromatic rice sprinkled with onions, raisins, cashews and lentils – is transformed into ghoozi tacos that concentrate all its memories and traditions into a single bite; while her signature Bamia dish modernises a Bahraini okra and meat stew using wagyu beef cheek, crispy okra glass and tomato broth rice.
That the Middle East & North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants’ Academy chose Bashmi as the inaugural winner of the MENA’s Best Female Chef Award is a testament to her creativity and commitment to honouring her heritage through outstanding food. Now, Bashmi is poised to break onto the world stage – one delicious dish at a time.
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The MENA’s Best Female Chef Award aims to support and promote inclusivity in the culinary sphere and provide the opportunity for female role models to inspire future generations of young women to reach for the heights of their chosen profession. The award is voted for by over 200 independent restaurant industry experts and well-travelled gourmets from across the region.