Disruptive innovation is a common theme across many, if not all, industry sectors nowadays. As in many other cases, the culinary world has also witnessed its rules being rewritten, with many chefs from around the world building their own enterprises to conquer the dining sector. So, how are they going about doing this? We asked some chefs who have embarked on such entrepreneurial endeavors in the MENA region to tell us their stories. Here's what Nadira Benaissa, founder, Top Chef Cooking Studio, had to say.
Following her successful career as a senior real estate executive in Dubai, Nadira Benaissa founded Top Chef Cooking Studio in Dubai in 2012, after spotting a gap in the market for a cooking studio that was a bit different; even though many restaurants and institutions were offering cooking classes, she explains. “People have recently discovered that cooking could be accessible to anyone and cooking classes have become a trend over the last past 10 years,” she says.
“However, getting people to know about us and understand our concept was not easy at all five years ago. Top Chef is a family-run boutique studio business, not one of those huge concepts or chains whose main focus is to make profit. We should never forget what made us create this place initially, we are a passionate team focused on transmitting knowledge to others.” Top Chef offers a range of tailor-made cooking classes for adults and children as well as private culinary functions, such as fun private parties or creative corporate events.
It is dealing with a certain type of competitor that Benaissa finds most challenging. “Competition is a good thing, it forces you to be always at the top and give the best of yourself,” she says. “The real issue is the unfair/disloyal competition. We are not protected at all against it and it strongly affects our business. The other problem we face, especially here in Dubai, is that people copy almost all the ideas you can come up with. Somehow, it is a good sign since it means that you are doing something right and people like it. The most important is that you did it first. The first ones never follow, creative people will always be inspired.”