If you’re a foodie or love cooking shows, you may be gearing up for another season of MasterChef Canada. I know I will be, and it’s most definitely to cheer on Reem Ahmed, the first Muslim hijabi on MasterChef Canada. It’s quite amazing to see Muslim women showing up an excelling in all sorts of fields, especially food! I knew I had to get to know more about Reem as we kick off the season premiere of MasterChef Canada on April 3rd at 9PM EST on CTV.
As you get ready to cheer on #TeamReem get to know her a little better with our exclusive interview with Reem below!
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I arrived in Canada a decade ago. My dream was to become a doctor, help people, make them happy, and have a positive influence on them, but unfortunately I chose one of the hardest programs to achieve my goal “Biomedical Engineering” . The years I spent doing engineering were the toughest of my life. However, I am forever grateful to engineering for the hardships and obstacles I faced. It made me the person I am today. Even though I am not passionate about Engineering, I have the thinking of an Engineer, and it’s that thinking that made me apply for MasterChef Canada. After I got married, I discovered my passion for cooking, trying new recipes, and recreating my grandmother’s and mother’s recipes. Remembering how my grandmother and mother always had people gathered and served them the most delicious meals, made me want to recreate that memory. Struggling to find my purpose in life, I remembered that my main goal was to help people and make them happy, and what’s better than a delicious meal cooked from the heart? After the birth of my son I struggled with postpartum depression and anxiety, it was a struggle getting out of bed, the only reason that pushed me to get up is my son and my husband. Without their love and support I wouldn’t have been where I am today.
What made you realize that you were not born to be an engineer?
I never enjoyed my years in Engineering, there were only a few courses that I loved, this got me thinking about the phrase “do what you love, to love what you do”, and my search for what I love began.
What pushed you to apply for Master Chef Canada?
I knew I had to push myself out of my comfort zone to do something extraordinary, I needed to stop dreaming and start acting. I had a dream to be on MCC and show the world my self-taught culinary experience that I managed to reach in less than 2 years of home cooking. Another thing that encouraged me is that I wanted to introduce myself to the world. The image of the Muslim woman being the oppressed, weak and controlled that the media keeps speaking about, and in order to clear these misconceptions, we have to fully integrate into our society and dispel those terrible misconceptions about Muslims in general, and Muslim women specifically. I wanted to have a positive influence!
How did having your son impact your perspective on your career?
Looking at my son, I want him to find his passion early on. I won’t impose any ideas on what he should be or do in life, I want him to do what he loves through helping people and making the world a better place. When I thought about what I wanted for my son, I figured it’s never too late to apply that on myself as well.
How does it feel to be the first hijabi Muslim on Master Chef Canada?
It is such an honor and so much pressure as well, everyone will be looking at me as the ambassador for Muslim women on the show. I hope that I meet their expectations and represent them in the best way possible. Sometimes actions are more powerful than words, so hopefully through my actions I get to clarify all the misconceptions people have about Muslim women, that we are independent, strong, successful, and lovely.
Do you think being the first hijabi on the show is breaking barriers for other Muslim women to come on the show and follow their dreams?
Absolutely! Just wait and see, you will be surprised by the number of Muslim women applying for the MasterChef Canada auditions next season.
What would be your advice to other hijabi Muslim women who are interested in pursuing their dreams?
Never give up, believe in yourself and the gift that Allah gave you. It’s okay to be underestimated by others because you will eventually prove them wrong, but never underestimate yourself. Always remember, progress over perfection. Treat everyone with kindness and respect, even if they are completely different than you or your thinking. Always walk with a smile and represent yourself in the best way possible.
What are some of your favourite dishes that you tweak to add a “Canadian flavour” to?
Nanaimo bars with a konafa “shredded phyllo made with butter, nuts, and syrup” base
French Canadian tourtiere with my mother’s special fillings, and my homemade phyllo pastry
Do you have any other food dreams besides opening up an Egyptian restaurant called The Pyramid?
Have my own cooking show!
What is your favourite thing about Egyptian food?
How simple ingredients are combined to come up with amazing dishes and sophisticated flavours! Also that Egyptian food is simple such that anyone can afford it.
What is the main goal you want to accomplish on Master Chef (besides winning of course!)?
To exceed my limits and prove to myself and the world, that I can do anything I set my mind to, just have courage and be kind!
Most people get stuck on things feeling “impossible”. If I asked you 2 years ago if you see yourself on Master Chef Canada, what would you say?
What advice would you give to others that want to achieve the impossible? I would have probably laughed, it feels like a dream come true, and all I needed to do is take the first step! When something feels impossible, just start the possible and the rest will follow. For example, in Engineering, when you look at graduation projects, it looks impossible to even start with, but somehow, taking baby steps, pushing yourself to do what you are uncomfortable with, and collecting all the bits and pieces of the things you’ve learned, you end up with your final product. Don’t underestimate yourself or your brain, we are not Allah’s best creation for no reason!
If you could give any advice to your younger self what would it be?
Do what you love, enjoy life; help others as much as you can.
Please share your social media links so we can follow along and cheer for you!
Facebook: Reem Ahmed