“The food industry here lacks innovation” Osamah Nasir, Food Critic
The influx of food-based public forums on social media has given the culinary arts in Pakistan a new edge, as public review forums like SWOT, Karachi Food Diary and Karachi Food Reviews keep pace with new developments, sending out the message to their growing band of followers. These platforms challenge the status quo, providing instant feedback, both kudos and brickbats — it’s all out there in the open.
The real face behind the popular Karachi Food Guide on Instagram, Osamah Nasir, is on a one-man mission to bring about a culinary revolution in Pakistan.
In this exclusive interview, Nasir talks to Newsline about his experience as a food critic, the lack of experimentation in the Pakistani food industry and the emergence of home-based female entrepreneurs in Karachi.
What inspired you to start the Karachi Food Guide?
With an increase in the popularity of food blogs and restaurant guides on both Facebook and Instagram, we have seen the growth of online food reviews become a permanent trend on the digital platform. Foodies now religiously refer to online food forums to decide where and what to eat within a given budget.
However, I noticed that while people rely on digital food forums, there were occasional allegations of biased reviews and planted recommendations. Managers of online food blogs and forums were often accused of imposing their own views and frequently deleted reviews that challenged their preferences.
In order to contest bias and avoid undergoing the ordeal of searching for the most accurate review, I decided to change the process by becoming a part of it myself. I began to incorporate my personal viewpoint on some of these eateries and their best dishes into my reviews. People found my precise and succinct reviews easy to follow, complemented with a picture of the serving, which motivated me to start the Karachi Food Guide on Instagram.
You have been an active member of the food critics’ community for a while now. How would you describe the culinary experience in Karachi?
Karachi is undoubtedly the most diverse city in Pakistan. From a wide range of cuisines to a variety of distinct places to dine, the choices are endless. My own weekly series about a certain ingredient or type of cuisine offers an abundance of choices for every single dish. Every week a new burger joint, coffee shop or pizza cafe opens up. There is just so much to explore in this city!
The food industry here lacks innovation. Restaurants are reluctant to experiment with food. Every cafÃ© seems to have almost the same menu and I’ve been waiting a long time to discover something really new. The focus of attention, for some reason, has shifted from the food served to extravagant interior design and the creation of an exotic environment. I often have words of appreciation regarding the atmosphere, but very rarely do I find inventive presentation in terms of the food itself.
Karachi Food Guide also features food catered by home-based entrepreneurs. To what extent is that part of the initiative successful?
Surprisingly, the business environment in Karachi has been very welcoming of small scale or home-based food businesses initiated by women. We have witnessed a sharp rise in the number of female entrepreneurs who own home-based food businesses. Many of them have contacted Karachi Food Guide to try their specialities and present honest reviews of their products. I have seen some of them grow into independent page owners on Facebook, while others cater to offices in Karachi as well. Given the constraints related to mobility, cultural barriers and accessibility, home-based catering is a viable option for women, in my view.
Karachi has recently been introduced to food festival culture. Do you think it is helping to expand the diversity of the city’s food experience?
Food unites people. The festivals have been welcomed by the public for that very reason, but since innovation is what interests me the most, I feel food festivals do encourage people to try out something different from their usual choices. Nutella samosas, fried donuts and churros are some hits that were introduced primarily at these festivals. As long as people are invited to experiment with food, it can only lead to a better culinary experience.
People need to be told the truth here. That’s how my journey started. I plan to stick to giving out brutally honest and challenging reviews for now, but in the long run I do hope to start a food magazine of my own.
Describe your overall experience in a sentence.
The entire journey has been gastronomical. Every night I go into an anabolic state that just adds to my waistline, and somehow I am okay with it; that’s the power of food!
No more posts to load