Yorkshire Times
Voice of the North
10:00 AM 6th June 2019

Q&A Yesmien Bagh-Ali -

How long have you lived in Yorkshire?

I was born and brought up in Skipton. I guess you can say I am a Yorkshire lass.

Have you always been a business woman?

No my first job was helping my mother sew clothes at a very young age. I set the business up when I was facing personal life challenges in my late 30's. I wanted to change attitudes towards British Asians and women in business.

Was it easy to set up a business in Yorkshire?

The fact that I went to the headteacher at the school I worked and told her I wanted to leave my job, a regular income, to educate the children in the Dales about Kashmiri culture was pretty brave and scary, especially when I had no knowledge or experience of setting up a business.

I was a woman who was brought up in a tight knit community and had never ventured out of the part of Skipton where I was born, let alone go off to rural places and then travelling the UK and the world.

I was frightened of coming across racism in unfamiliar places. It has been challenging but rewarding too.

Children often say and appreciate me giving them opportunities to learn via exciting activities, rather than a non-Asian teacher talking about the culture and faith.

Your business seems to be very diverse was this planned from the start?

As a British Asian woman with limited experience of business and social skills I guess I knew I had to work extremely hard to try and understand the basic life/business skills and anything that came my way I created a reason for the need of developing or using it.

I had lots of life experience relating to my Kashmiri heritage and I was able to use this. I didn't ever think when I was a teenager that I would be a chef, but I realised food was a great way of bringing communities together and getting the attention of the various clients I was working with.

It was the passion to educate and bring together communities that led the business the way it has. My intention in the beginning wasn't cooking. It was a customer who said could you train my chefs at their hotel in Ripon. Then another customer who asked me if I catered for parties and weddings, and before I knew it I was catering for many events, teaching how to cook Kashmiri dishes and educating pupils in schools on global education and British values.

Through these events I have had opportunities meeting and working with well-known chefs, like Madhur Jaffery and Jamie Oliver, appearing on TV and radio. Creating my range of Spice blends, which not only sold in Farm/deli shops but also have been sold on a sky shopping channel.

Because I enjoy meeting people, learning and travelling, the business helped me create an opportunity to educate myself through meeting wonderful customers and visiting many places, in Yorkshire and further afield. I guess this is why it is so diverse but yet all connected.

What have you enjoyed about your business journey?

Everything, the challenges, the struggles and the progression. I have been very lucky to meet so many wonderful women in business and appreciated all the praise and support I have got from established businesses. Yorkshire people are very willing to help out and share their knowledge, giving friendly advice.

I have loved the fact I get the opportunity to work with people from diverse backgrounds. The pleasure I get travelling to wonderful places and networking to develop more contacts. In fact my spice blends have been sent out across Europe to lots of happy customers.

My business has helped me grow in confidence to venture out and develop so many skills. Being a positive role model and inspiring other women.

There are so many ingredients, herbs and spices available in Yorkshire why are yours so different?

My parents were farmers in Kashmir and they brought their true authentic knowledge with them to Yorkshire and passed down that knowledge to me. I grind the spices just like mum did years ago along with her elders. People in Yorkshire are a lot more aware of flavours and they appreciate traditional methods and recipes. They love the authenticity and the fact that they are freshly ground in Yorkshire.

Do you have a favourite meal?

I have a few. I love my fish masala curry, my spicy lasagne and carrot dessert.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I don't get a lot of spare time but when I do I try to walk in the Dales. Yorkshire has so many beautiful places. Only the other day I was organising my upcoming cookery demos and food with Cavendish Pavilion in Bolton Abbey. After the meeting I changed into my walking boots and spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the beautiful surroundings. I also love reading.

How would you describe Yorkshire in five words?

Beautiful, picturesque, peaceful, intriguing and friendly