Meet NCOTY finalist Sarah-Jasmina Moussabih, head chef at Finnish Embassy, London
Sarah has been working as a chef now for 11 years and has worked in many places and establishments; from nursing homes to fine dining restaurants, from sunny Spain to freezing Lapland. She spent a long time working seasonally at different restaurants and venues, making friends and learning on the job. During this time, she was very fortunate to work alongside excellent chefs who not only taught her about cooking but also the work ethic. She took on her current role as the head chef at the Embassy of Finland in London in early 2020 and loves it there.
Sarah-Jasmina likes the freedom of being able to apply her skills in a huge variety of ways, whether it’s working in a high end kitchen, catering for weddings and events, developing products for businesses or going to private homes and organising intimate dinner parties. She really enjoys meeting different kinds of people and is always learning.
Interestingly, when she was younger, Sarah-Jasmina hated cooking and was unsure about what she wanted to do with her life whilst she was at school. She actually studied science and was interested in pursuing a career in renewable energy. However, she fell in love with cooking after taking a summer job in a kitchen at a golf course in Southern Finland.
There are many chefs who have inspired her. Her first head chef ever is the reason that she stayed in the kitchen and got really into the culinary arts but she has met so many people at different stages of her career that have helped make her the talented cook she is today. Her parents are a real inspiration too, as she says she has never met two people who work as hard as they do.
One of the most memorable days of her career was what she was thought was a normal Tuesday service. It wasn’t supposed to be anything special, but the president of Finland just popped in for dinner with his wife!
Sarah-Jasmina entered National Chef of the Year as she loves competing! She feels you learn so much from each experience, so she didn’t think twice about applying this year. However, 2020 created additional challenges including having difficulty getting hold of ingredients and not being able to practice with some of her friends. She also had a trip booked to San Sebastian to carry out research for her online entry but had to cancel this.
During lockdown she made sure she kept herself busy! She was cooking for NHS staff at her local hospital once or twice a week and also did an eight-week Open University course in nutritional science.
For her second stage dish, she wanted to bring in her heritage as she is half Finnish and half Moroccan, so she wanted to use something from both countries. Her aim was also to create something simple but unique using some of her favourite ingredients.
This is Sarah-Jasmina’s fourth time entering the competition and on every occasion she has pushed herself harder. She has learned so much from the process and has always enjoyed herself at the same time. However, this year she already feels humbled in reaching the final so a win from here would be the cherry on the cake!
To succeed as a chef, she believes that you should be humble and suck up every bit of information you can. She told us: “You should also tolerate others as there are a lot of different kinds of people in this industry. There are always things to learn from the people and situations around us and she feels we should all be humble enough to recognise those moments. As professional cooking is a demanding industry with long hours and low pay it can be challenging when getting started.” However, she feels with patience and time the rewards can be massive. Her style of cooking is simple, elegant and Nordic.