A daughter of celebrity parents in Pakistan, Marium Shariq came to the United States to pursue a much different life than the one she had known in Dubai where there was more help in the home and the demands of motherhood were less consuming. When the global shutdowns of 2020 impacted her event planning business, this ambitious mother quickly shifted her focus to sharing a passion for cooking, her culture and proven methods that make family meal preparation more manageable for the busy mother. Quick, savory and experiential recipes earned her online success as a content creator on multiple social media platforms and afforded her the opportunity to work with major brands. A woman to follow, and a mom to know: meet my friend Marium.
TBPM: Tell us about yourself. What brought you to Tampa?
Marium Shariq: I was born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan, and then moved to Dubai in my early 20s. I started my career as an event planner and worked in the event industry for almost 12 years. During my time as an event planner, I worked with a lot of celebrities, including Shahrukh Khan and Justin Bieber. I moved to Tampa seven years ago due to my husband’s work; he is an IT professional and grew up in New York City. I love it here, especially the beaches.
TBPM: What is the story behind your blog’s /Insta name, The Chilli Apron?
Marium Shariq: I spent a lot of time deciding what to name my blog. “The Chilli Apron” developed from my heritage and love for South Asian food and cooking. I came up with a name which includes my passion for spicy food and, of course, an apron is one thing I can’t cook without!
TBPM: How did you decide to become a content creator on social media? What was it that grew your audience significantly on both Instagram and TikTok?
Marium Shariq: When I moved to the U.S., I was a stay-at-home mom working as a freelance event specialist, but then the COVID pandemic started. I am very active and sitting at home made me restless. I started documenting my cooking routine. My husband and friends love my recipes and food and often ask me to experiment with fusion food ideas.
I was consistent on social media, which is critical for growth. I grew my audience on Instagram by providing what followers wanted. I connected with them through my everyday stories and posted their favorite recipes with minimum ingredients, quick cooking times and fusion food that the whole family can enjoy. My audience felt an immediate connection with me, and now I have a significant global following.
TBPM: What is your favorite dish?
Marium Shariq: Do I just have to pick one? It’s funny because my husband teases me that I have too many favorites and I have to pick just one. On a serious note, I love fried food, but because I’m health conscious, I make all of my favorite food in the air fryer. A few of my favorite foods I often make are spicy crispy chicken (I make it with hot Cheetos crumbs), crispy mutton chops, tacos and butter chicken. These are quick and easy recipes, and you will find them on my Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest pages.
TBPM: Describe your food style, techniques, and recipes. What is the one ingredient you always cook with? What is one ingredient you won’t use?
Marium Shariq: My food style is fusion, I’d say. It’s a good combo of South Asian and Mediterranean. Techniques: If you want to master specific basic skills, you must go through a few basic cooking methods like sautéing, roasting and braising. A proper chef knife is also essential for good slicing, dicing, mincing or chopping.
One ingredient? That’s a tricky question! There are plenty of ingredients that I would consider indispensable, but if I had to choose one, I would choose garlic. I have cooked cuisines of many different cultures and countries, tried food around the world, and found garlic is the most common ingredient. If you crush garlic with a little bit of sea salt in a mortar and pestle, you will get the best garlicky flavor of all. The best part is that garlic is incredibly good for health and has medicinal properties. Just brush your teeth after having garlic or have gum handy.
The one thing I do not like to cook with is liquid smoke because of its chemical taste and makeup. You can achieve the smoky flavor in many other ways by using a wood oven, a piece of charcoal or a log burner.
TBPM: What are the two kitchen gadgets you can’t live without?
Marium Shariq: I can’t live without my Instant Pot and air fryer. In fact, my blog is all about the Instant Pot and air fryer (easy, quick, and healthy cooking).
TBPM: What is your best advice to a mother who struggles to have a presence on social media for business and be present in her home with her children?
Marium Shariq: Motherhood brings many emotions, adjustments and physical changes that go deeper than what’s visible on the outside. If you are a mom struggling with social media and home life, I would advise you never to compare yourself to others on the platform. No one is you, and that is your POWER. Take a day or two off social media and spend it with your family; that’s what I do. I take my Sundays off and spend quality time with my kids and husband. Also, keep a balance between family and work. For me, family comes before everything.
TBPM: How do you have a healthy relationship with social media?
Marium Shariq: I relax and breathe. After all, it is a platform and not real life. I don’t get myself sucked in. I put my phone down during meal times, especially at dinner, pay attention when people are talking to me, and do not let social media change me as a person.
Originally published in September 2022 of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.