Chef Mosly cooks her way around the world

Updated 14 April 2013
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Chef Mosly cooks her way around the world

Saudi chef Mona Mosly, 24, began her career in the culinary sector when she joined an etiquette boarding school in Switzerland. She attended the famous culinary school Le Cordon Bleu in London and later introduced Parisians to authentic Arabic cuisine.
“My mother wanted me living close to her, but I couldn’t study in the Kingdom. None of the courses Saudi universities offered interested me. She agreed to send me to the Institute Villa Pierrefeu, a boarding school in Montreux for a year,” said Mosly. “Here I learned so much about international etiquette, protocol, table service, cooking, floral art, table decoration and home management. I found I loved the subjects related to cooking and table decorations the most.”
Mosly came back to Jeddah with her Swiss diploma and a deep-rooted conviction that she wanted to pursue her passion in cooking. “My mother was not 100 percent convinced of allowing me to have cooking as a fulltime job. They wanted to test my passion first before making the final decision,” she said. “I landed an internship at the Leylaty group, where Hani Al-Attas helped me join one of the kitchens. Here I learned the basics of cooking and how to use different knives and pans.”
When her parents saw her determination to become a chef, they supported her decision and sent her to one of the most elite gastronomy, hospitality and management schools in the world. “I studied at Le Cordon Bleu London and I did both pastry and cuisine under great chefs and culinary professors,” said Mosly. “I saw myself more on the cuisine cooking section. I loved everything about it, from the pressure and the heat to the shouting and the speed.”
When Mosly came back to Jeddah in 2010, she worked in the cold kitchen and the hot cuisine section at Leylaty group for a while. She cooked food for weddings and also worked for restaurant Al-Multaqa when she got a shocking reaction from one of the diners. “I was working at the pasta station where we prepare live pasta for diners. One of the diners pointed at me and asked me for a tissue, thinking I was a waiter,” she said. “This showed me that either Saudis don’t know what chefs are or that they never would expect women to work as chefs in a five-star restaurant.”
After Al-Multaqa restaurant Mosly worked in Chinese restaurant Toki and then in Lebanese restaurant Byblos until she landed an internship in Paris with the Plaza Athénée hotel. She was determined to make it there, even though the language was a great barrier when she couldn’t understand the orders and the instructions that she received. “The three-star Michelin head chef at the hotel, Philippe Marc, was very surprised when he first saw me. He said he never thought he would see the day when a Saudi girl would land in his kitchen,” she laughed. “My plan was to train there for six months but he made me stay for 18 months. I introduced the kitchen to my Arabic cuisine that I learned from my mother.”
Mosly’s mother is Syrian, which made her learn more about Syrian and Lebanese cuisine than Saudi traditional cooking. “The chef loved the food and he actually added some of my dishes the menu of the hotel. I was very proud that chef Alain Ducasse, who is the father of all chefs in the world, used to come especially to try my cooking. He loved my stuffed vine leaves and Traboulsi hummus,” she said. “I worked in every department at the hotel’s kitchen from pastry, central pastry, central kitchen, room service, the garden restaurant La Cour Jardin and other restaurants,” she said. “The whole experience was amazing to me and I learned so much. I believe it pushed me forward to challenge myself and believe in myself.”
Mosly looks forward to the day when Saudi Arabia recognizes Saudi chefs and open institutes that help those chefs develop their skills. “I don’t know why we still don’t have that. Saudi chefs have to travel around the globe to learn about different kinds of cooking and cuisine,” she said. “If a Saudi ever decided to open a culinary school I would be the first to apply to teach the younger generation what I learned and share my experience.”
The young chef also talked about the difficulty and the reaction she gets from Saudis when they know about her occupation. “I don’t think Saudis are accepting this fact. Kitchens at home are made for wives, but kitchens in restaurants are made for men. If this is mixed up, they get confused and reject it,” she said.

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Ta’ateemah: Giving Eid a Hijazi flavor

Ta’ateemah includes a variety of dishes such as dibyazah, red mish, chicken and lamb stew and bread. File/Getty Images
Updated 19 June 2018
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Ta’ateemah: Giving Eid a Hijazi flavor

  • Dibyaza is made of melted dried apricots, roasted nuts, figs, peach and sugary dates to create a marmalade-like dish that can be enjoyed with or without bread
  • The dibyaza is also similar to an Egyptian dish called khoshaf, but dibyaza is often partnered with shureik — a donut-shaped bread with sesame sprinkled all over it

JEDDAH: Ta’ateemah is the name of the breakfast feast Hijazis enjoy on the first day of Eid Al-Fitr. It is derived from the Arabic word, itmah, or darkness, because the dishes served are light, just like midnight snacks.

Muslims around the world celebrate Eid Al-Fitr to feast after fasting for the holy month of Ramadan. But it is called Al-Fitr from iftar, or breakfast when translated to English, which is a meal Muslims do not get to experience during that month.
The first day of Eid is a day where they finally can, and they greet the day with joy by heading to Eid prayers and then enjoying this traditional meal.
Amal Turkistani, mother of five from Makkah who now lives in Jeddah, told Arab News all about a special Eid dish.
“The most famous dish is the dibyaza, and making a dish of it is a work of art that I can proudly say I excel at. Dibyaza is made of melted dried apricots, roasted nuts, figs, peach and sugary dates to create a marmalade-like dish that can be enjoyed with or without bread.”
She revealed that dibyaza is not a quick meal — it is usually prepared a day or two before Eid with the ingredients simmered to reach the correct liquid thickness.
No one can trace the origins of dibyaza — it remains a mystery. Some people claim it originated in Turkey, while others attribute it to the Indians.
A number of women who are famous for their dibyaza agreed that it is a Makkawi dish. This marmalade dish was developed and improved, with tiny details to distinguish it.
The dibyaza is also similar to an Egyptian dish called khoshaf, but dibyaza is often partnered with shureik — a donut-shaped bread with sesame sprinkled all over it.
Turkistani said sweet shops sell 1 kg of dibyaza for SR50 ($13), competing with housewives who make their own.

 

“I think it is always tastier when it’s homemade because of all the love that goes into making it. It’s also a wonderful way to greet your family and neighbors with this special dish that you only enjoy once a year.”
Her younger sister, Fatin, said: “My siblings always have Eid breakfast at my place, so it’s up to me to prepare the feast. My sister spares me the exhausting dibyaza-making, so I prepare two main dishes: Minazalla, which is a stew of lamb chops with tahini and a tomato chicken stew.
“She also serves what we call nawashif, or dry food, like different types of cheese and olives, pickled lemon, labneh, red mish — a mixture of white cheese, yogurt and chili pepper and halwa tahini,” Amal said.
Mohammed Ibrahim, 23, from Makkah, told Arab News: “It always feels unique to have minazalla and nawashif during Eid, and not just because it is followed by the Eidiyah.”

Decoder

What is Eidiyah?

It is money elders in the family give to the youth to celebrate Eid and to congratulate them on completing Ramadan fasting.