Dubai-based institute helps cook up culinary careers in Lahore

Dubai-based institute helps cook up culinary careers in Lahore
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Students pose at the School of Culinary and Finishing Arts in Lahore, Pakistan on January 8, 2019 (Photo SCAFA Lahore Facebook Page)
Dubai-based institute helps cook up culinary careers in Lahore
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Students pose with pastry at the School of Culinary and Finishing Arts in Lahore, Pakistan on January 4, 2019 (Photo SCAFA Lahore Facebook Page)
Updated 14 June 2019

Dubai-based institute helps cook up culinary careers in Lahore

Dubai-based institute helps cook up culinary careers in Lahore
  • Zaigham Haque brought the School of Culinary and Finishing Arts to Pakistan’s cultural capital in 2015
  • Says he opened SCAFA for the love of food and to offer alternatives to more conventional careers

ISLAMABAD: In 2009, Zaigham Haque was in a London cab on his way to dine at a top-rated restaurant when a friend joked that he should channel his childlike excitement and love of food into launching his own version of Paris’s famed Le Cordon Bleu.
Though they laughed at the idea at the time, Haque, a former accountant, said it was here that the seeds were first sown for Dubai’s School of Culinary and Finishing Arts (SCAFA), which he launched in 2011. After three years of offering a complete spectrum of courses for professionals and food enthusiasts in Dubai where Haque has lived for much of his adult life, he decided to take the institute home to Pakistan.
SCAFA Pakistan, which operates in Lahore’s bustling Gulberg area, has graduated roughly 120 people since it opened its doors in 2015, and added a casual dining cafe called Scafé Express and a 60-seat restaurant, Scafa Bistro. All three are housed in the same building, with the restaurants giving students the chance to fully understand and practice fine dining before they head out into the job market.
The dining experience, Haque said, is a prelude to the teaching program where students learn about international fine-dining and kitchen operations.
“The commitment was to operate the Pakistan school with the same standards as we were doing in Dubai, which is world class,” the SCAFA CEO said in an interview to Arab News.
Another motivation for opening the school was Haque’s belief that many high school students did not want to go the conventional route of university or pursue standard careers. Particularly in Pakistan, where parents push their kids into the fields of medicine, business or engineering, Haque felt there was a need to offer and celebrate viable alternatives to conventional job paths. His own daughter Alisha Haque was training to be a dolphin and mammal trainer before her father convinced her to join his culinary business.
“In Pakistan, we have opened an exemplary training institute, offering world class qualifications, and international careers to our graduating students,” Haque said. “There is first class faculty made up of international chefs splitting time between both our campuses.”
But it all comes with a hefty price tag. The professional apprenticeship program at the school, for example, costs over AED 83,000 or roughly Rs.3,464,948. Haque says the program is expensive because it meets international standards and has a unique, student-led approach: the chef instructors provide guidelines but leave plenty of room for students to practice, make mistakes and find their own solutions. The idea, Haque says, is to get students to think both critically and creatively.
“We give students a foundation that creates a different kind of chef,” he said.