How Lilyma Khan Became A Junior Chef From A Waste-Picker

Chef Lilyma Khan's journey to a high-end restaurant in Delhi’s Vasant Kunj from a waste-picker is full of hope and hard-work.

The journey of Lilyma Khan, a 25-year-old junior chef at the Le Cantine restaurant in New Delhi’s Vasant Kunj, is one that is full of grit and unyielding hope.

Growing up as an orphan, who lost her parents and got separated from her siblings at the tender age of 4. Life under indiscreet Delhi flyovers made her witness rots and perish, yet Lilyma managed to keep her hopes alive.

People who took her in exploited her by making her work as a child-labourer, from waste-picking to construction manual labour, hungrily she toiled from 4 am to almost 11 pm. Being a young girl-child also made her vulnerable; an easy target for men to pry.

Hunger knows no difference between bad and good food

“I used to think about how I can escape that place,” she shared her experiences with the YouTube channel, Karwan-e-Mohabbat. She further tells, “I used to forage and eat from dustbins, it didn’t matter what I ate, as I was always hungry.”

Eventually, her prayers got answered when she was rescued from the settlement where she and many other orphans like her were constantly exploited by the families they lived with at 12. In the Kilkari Rainbow Home, all of a sudden she found herself surrounded by “food, love, and everything.”

The home provided her with food, love, and education till standard 11, and she found herself with people who cared for her. She loved the atmosphere at Rainbow Home, where she got proper counselling and training.

Later she began assisting the caretakers, with the kitchen being her favourite workplace place.

Entering the professional kitchen

The NGO Creative Services Support Group, helped her find an apprenticeship in cooking after Lilyma finished her schooling. After initial training, she was appointed a staff cook at an Italian restaurant in Delhi.

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This job further fostered her love for cooking; after training and working tirelessly with dedication, she finally joined the upscale restaurant Le Cantine, in South Delhi.

In her own words, “Initially, I found it scary to step inside such a high-end place because of where I come from. But now that fear has gone away.“ She has worked in the restaurant for over 5 years now.

Today, Lilyma Khan is a junior chef at the Le Cantine restaurant, and she is living her dream. She has come a long way from foraging dustbins for food to cooking food in a fancy restaurant.

Gender is not a barrier

People have occasionally asked her why she joined an industry that didn’t favour women. A question she counters by citing her mentor as an example, “Then why is Chef Julia, who is a big name in the industry, working here? I want to be someone like her!”

Her story is an inspiration to many, and she hopes that it will encourage others to never lose hope and to always pursue their dreams. She is proof that with hard work, dedication, and unyielding hope, anything is possible.

Lilyma Khan further says, “I want to continue working in this field. I have many things to learn. My goal is to become the head-chef of a restaurant like my mentor.

Her journey is one of determination, hard work, and unyielding hope. She faced numerous obstacles along the way, but she never gave up on her dream of becoming a chef. Her story is an inspiration to anyone who has ever faced adversity and struggled to overcome it.

Lilyma Khan’s journey also highlights the importance of organizations like Kilkari Rainbow Home and Creative Services Support.


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Image source: Screengrab from Karwan e Mohabbat’s video interview, edited on CanvaPro

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Sheru Photography

Sheru is an Indian photographer, cinematographer, writer, and entrepreneur based in New Delhi. He gained popularity with the online handle 'Sheru Photographer.' Sheru's interest in photography began at age 9, and he honed his read more...

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