Rafaqat Chaudhary was born in India and grew up in Pakistan, but found a home in Golden in 1976 and has lived here ever since.
Chaudhary was born in 1946, just a year before Pakistan and India gained independence from British rule and became separate countries. At the time, many Muslims, Chaudhary’s family included, moved to Pakistan, where Islam was more widely practiced.
Chaudhary has had a passion for cooking since she was just seven years old. Like most girls, she enjoyed playing with dolls and one day she, and her cousin, decided to host a wedding and a party for two of their dolls.
Chaudhary cooked some rice for the celebration, and her passion grew from there.
“(After that) my mom inspired me by telling me ‘oh you did so good, your rice was so tasty’,” Chaudhary said. “My dad was always encouraging me too.”
Chaudhary’s mom died at the age of 38. Chaudhary was just 13 at the time, but she still managed to learn plenty from her mother before she passed away.
“When she cooked anything I helped her and I learned from her. She taught me everything,” she said.
As the oldest of five siblings, Chaudhary was forced to grow up in a hurry after her mother’s death and take on added responsibility around the house. One of the ways she helped her father the most was through cooking.
“I was the cook and I was in charge of everything,” she said.
Eventually, Chaudhary became a teacher in Pakistan and got married. Her husband’s brother had moved to Golden, and the couple decided to join him in Canada. At first, they weren’t sure if they would stay and thought they’d give Golden a shot on a trial basis. Also around that time, the couple started a family and eventually had three children.
In Golden, Chaudhary got an ESL teaching job at East Kootenay Community College (now the College of the Rockies). Later she worked for Homesport as a homemaker before taking a job at Durand Manor as a long-term care aid worker. She throughly enjoyed helping the senior citizens that lived at the facility and spent 26 years there before she retired.
“It was a very good job, I really liked it,” Chaudhary said. “(I built) very close relationships with my patients.”
Through it all, however, cooking has remained one of her biggest passions and greatest joys in life. Since her retirement she has taught a few cooking classes at the college, started a small catering business and wrote two cookbooks (with a third on the way shortly). Her favourite recipes include both eastern and western dishes. For information on both her cookbooks and catering business, Chaudhary can be reached at 250-344-5438.
Of course, Chaudhary and her husband never did move back to Pakistan and made Golden their permanent home. Their kids have grown up and moved away, but the couple has remained.
“I love this town because we are living like a community and living like a big family,” she said. “All of my neighbours and all of my friends are always ready to help me.”