The food was mouth watering, served by a team of dedicated Saudi staff, as social media influencers photographed everything for their online audiences.
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh marked its return to regular operations at the weekend with a stunning Grand Brunch, masterminded by its new executive chef, Esat Akyildiz. “It’s a team effort,” he said.
Chef Esat, from Turkey, has been cooking since he was 15, and has served presidents and prime ministers in a career that has taken him from Kazakhstan to the Middle East.
He joined the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh in November, and already feels at home. “I think everyone has been waiting for this brunch,” he told Arab News. “We will continue our operations, to serve our guests as usual. This is first time we’ve had an outdoor dining experience. I’m looking forward to the feedback, and learning how to improve the guests’ experience.”
There was certainly no shortage of positive feedback this weekend. “It’s amazing and I had a great time, the atmosphere itself was lovely. On a global level, I’ve never seen that many varieties of food. It was magnificent,” said @naifco, an influencer with nearly half-a-million Twitter followers.
Youssef Al-Sudais, another social media influencer, was also there, Snapchatting enthusiastically.
The dining area around the pool was packed by 2 p.m., as families enjoyed more than 700 dishes, including Japanese and Italian cuisine, prepared at 15 live cooking stations. Chef Jaber, who ran the Saudi food section, described the brunch as “amazing” and said he was sure the guests would enjoy it.
It was also a career highlight for Faisal Al-Sobky, a young Saudi assistant manager at the Ritz-Carlton, who served with a smile and had an upbeat attitude.
Al-Sobky has a degree in hospitality. “I applied to work at the Ritz while I was still continuing my studies. It was a dream of mine to work here, and once I graduated, I got a position.
“Arabs were known for their hospitality even before hotels existed. It’s in our blood. There is no shame in this work. I encourage young people to take a step forward and work in what they’re passionate about.”