Meet the Bangladeshi Cook Who Is NRECA International’s Longest-Serving Employee

Abdul Malek has been cooking meals for NRECA International’s staff in Dhaka, Bangladesh, for more than 40 years. (Photo Courtesy: NRECA International)

Abdul Malek has been serving up beef curry, egg pudding and comfort to NRECA International employees in Bangladesh for more than 40 years, making him the longest-serving employee still working for the nonprofit group that brings electricity to developing nations throughout the world.

Malek, who began working in the Dhaka office in 1980 when he was 20 and is now 64, never thought he’d stay so long at the same workplace. He has been there since NRECA International first began operating in the South Asian nation.

“When I first started working at NRECA, it was just a job to support myself and my family,” he said. “But over the years, it has become like a second home to me. The people here are like family and the work we do is important and fulfilling.”

Malek has “a warm and welcoming personality,” said Farid Islam, NRECA International’s Bangladesh country director and a co-worker of Malek’s for the past 12 years.

“He is always ready with a smile, which makes the office atmosphere more pleasant,” he said. “He’s a lovely guy and he is very loved. We depend on him.”

By cooking nutritious meals on site, Malek helps the staff of 22 be more productive because employees don’t have to leave the office for lunch, Islam said. Malek buys fresh ingredients at a local market. He mainly prepares the noon meal, but he sometimes makes dinner when employees work late.

“Everybody is waiting for lunchtime, not only for the food but to get together and talk,” Islam said. “Our conference room is small and we’re all sitting very tightly together, but we love to eat and talk. No one wants to miss out.”

Islam’s favorite dish of Malek’s is the beef curry.

“It’s deliciously flavorful with just the right amount of spice,” he said. “I love it because it reminds me of home-cooked meals from my childhood.”

For electrical engineer Tahmina Islam, her favorite meal is a chicken curry dish known as chicken tari.

“I love chicken, and he cooks it very nicely,” she said.

Malek says his favorite entrée to prepare is biryani, a rice and marinated chicken dish spiced with cinnamon and cardamom, among other flavors.

“It’s a traditional dish from my home country of Bangladesh that everyone loves,” he said.

Malek, who cleans the office when he is not cooking, has the energy of a much younger man, Farid Islam said.

“His dedication and hard work ensure that all staff members are well-fed and taken care of during their busy days at work,” he said. “We are lucky to have him.”

Malek says he hasn’t given retirement much thought.

“But when the time comes, I will know that I have done everything and that I can retire with pride.”

Erin Kelly is a staff writer for NRECA.