How a Pakistani asylum seeker became a top chef in Switzerland

After losing hope of returning to Pakistan, Saif Khan mastered the German language and acquired a degree from a reputable Swiss institution

Khalid Hameed Farooqi
Saif Khan.
Saif Khan.

During my travel to Liechtenstein from Switzerland, I stopped at the border between Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Austria, This is the place where the borders of the three countries merge. There, I saw a sophisticated Swiss restaurant, owned by Saif Khan — a top Swiss Chef who graduated from the prestigious Swiss Magro Chur Club School in Switzerland.

Hailing from Mandi Bahauddin, Saif was a Pakistani political activist who sought refuge in Switzerland to protect his life. He, however, refused to be seen as a refugee who people would pity. Therefore, he decided to assimilate into Swiss society. For that, he mastered the German language and acquired a degree from a reputable Swiss institution. And unlike many other migrants who tend to take up typical professions, he studied to become a chef.

This is the story of a young man who, with his Pakistani identity, successfully integrated into Swiss society, a milestone rarely achieved by members of the immigrant community there.

Speaking to Geo News, Saif said: "After coming to Switzerland, I thought that the political situation in Pakistan would improve and I would return to my country, but after waiting for two years, my hope of returning died."

After contemplating the situation for a while, Said said he decided to build a new life in Switzerland and began by learning the German language. He also increased his interactions with Swiss people to better understand their culture and assimilate there.

"I became friends with my doctor at the Political Asylum Centre. He was a great help to me and we are friends to this day," said Saif. "After graduation, I wanted to start my own business so I sought a loan from the Swiss Bank and was successfully granted more than one million Swiss Frank credit (one million euros) to start a business of my choice."

Saif revealed that at present, he has a 10-member Swiss staff working at his restaurant, but he is the executive chef. 

"I am the executive chef. This region is one of the richest places in the world, full of rich tourists. The business is going great," he said.

Speaking about the menu he serves at his restaurant, Saif said that it mainly comprises Swiss cuisine, but there are a few Pakistani dishes too.

"Currently, we serve two Pakistani dishes at the restaurant but they had to be slightly modified, with fewer spices, in order to appeal to the local tastebuds," he said.