Asma Khan, founder of Darjeeling Express, smiling at the camera in a red dress.

Asma Khan’s view on empowering women and living with purpose


When Holly talked to Asma Khan — founder of the restaurant, Darjeeling Express and star of Netflix’s ‘Chef’s Table’ — she was left in tears (in a good way). Asma is someone with a great passion for empowering women and she says this comes through having one precious thing — purpose.

Growing up in India as the second daughter of parents who hoped for boys, Asma had the intense experience of feeling unwanted — which is precisely why she's made it her life’s mission to ensure that the women around her feel valued. Asma studied law and got her PHD, yet despite this accomplishment, felt lost. So she turned to cooking, and everything changed. After setting up a supper club and building a small female community to help out, their success grew. One by one, the women left their cleaning and nannying jobs to become chefs in Asma’s new enterprise — Darjeeling Express.

Today, Asma’s kitchen is filled with ladies who are not trained chefs but who have been given a chance to shine, just as they were. Using business for good and helping women to fulfil their potential is exactly why Holly set up Holly & Co too, so it’s fair to say this is an episode with extra special meaning. Here are Holly’s key takeaways…

Hoop by Make & Mend that says 'your power is not your dress size, it's whose life you have changed'

Your power is not your dress size, it's whose life you have changed

Holly says, "For Asma, it’s not your bank balance or your dress size that makes you successful. Especially for women. For us to win in life, the team has to win, and I wholeheartedly agree. We have to fulfil our purpose. Asma believes she will never be free if those around her are still in chains — which is exactly why I believe in community over competition.”

Following your passion and purpose can truly set you free

“By following your passion, you can change your own life and then help change the lives of others — and that’s where you’ll find liberation. By remembering your life’s purpose, you’ll rediscover your magic; the heart of why you’re here and I’d encourage everyone to do that.”

All our lives hang by a thread, so make the most of yours

“Asma gives a superb reminder that we can sometimes come to feel all powerful but as her father says, everything is temporary. Every day, we must be grateful. Do the most you can today. None of us know what might happen. We must value life and value people.”

You can change your life at any age

“People think you have to have it all figured out when you’re in your 20s or 30s. You absolutely don’t. Asma says that she wouldn’t have had the fire she had in her 50s when she was in her 30s. She didn’t set up her restaurant till she was in her late 40s and she is thriving now. She is proof that by being brave and doing what you love, you can transform your life at any age.”

Listen to Asma Khan’s podcast episode.