In a fast-paced world, many may think of cooking as more of a chore than an enjoyable experience.
Gone are the days of elaborate family dinners and cooking just for fun, resulting in many people being unable to cook as well as the generations before them.
To show people that cooking can be fun — and to give students a few more options than just eating cereal for every meal — chefs from all over Virginia Tech are hosting cooking workshops for students and the Blacksburg community.
The most recent of these events was held on Tuesday and featured Executive Chef Senior Nazim Khan of Tech’s Personal Touch Catering, who has more than enough experience to share with aspiring cooks.
Khan became interested in food and cooking at a young age, watching his mother prepare meals for the family. However, living in Bangladesh, cooking was not something that people could pursue as a career.
“Back home, there is no culinary culture,” Khan said. “They don’t see it as an art or as a huge industry, so my dad never allowed us to go into the kitchen. My mom always cooked, but I was always thinking and seeing what she was cooking, and I always had questions regarding what she was doing.”
In 1992, Khan moved to the United States to attend college, where the culinary arts are more appreciated. After graduating from Georgia College & State University, he found himself working at several well-known restaurants in New York City under the Marriott name. Following several years with Marriott, he took the advice of his former boss, Certified Master Chef George McNeill, before moving to a new job.
“Chef told us that you always think outside the box,” Khan said. “It’s common speech, but if you really want to be somebody, you cannot be comfortable in one place.”
Thinking outside the box, Khan ended up at the Ritz-Carlton in Battery Park, N.Y. as a sous-chef, serving high profile guests as part of a $35 million annual service. However, this job was difficult on his family since he was gone much of the time.
“My son was about two years old, so when I was leaving him he was sleeping, and when I came home he was sleeping again,” Khan said. “My wife told me that he was growing up and was not going to know me. That kind of struck me, and I realized (it) was time to get out of New York.”
After looking for similar jobs outside of New York, Khan found a connection with The Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center, an area that he had visited before and liked. The move was one that his wife agreed with.
“I asked my wife, ‘Do you want to move to Roanoke?’” Khan said. “She said, ‘Anything but New York.’”
Khan and his family came to Roanoke, Va. in 2008, where he worked for two years before coming to Tech’s Personal Touch Catering. Since that time, Khan has served as Executive Chef Senior, a job that includes responsibilities such as planning event menus, holding wedding tastings for brides and grooms, and planning meals for the stadium suites at Tech football games.
One part of Khan’s job that he enjoys is being able to teach others, following McNeill’s advice that the best way to learn more in the kitchen is to pass what you know on to someone else. Khan has developed his own techniques for teaching his cooks, most importantly preaching what he calls his “three P’s of success.”