The man who leads 10 million chefs from his kitchen in Saudi Arabia

Thomas Gugler (left) is based in Saudi Arabia. (Photo supplied)
Updated 15 July 2018
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The man who leads 10 million chefs from his kitchen in Saudi Arabia

DUBAI: As far as a career in food goes, Thomas Gugler seems to have done it all — from working with five-star hotels and gourmet restaurants to hospitals, airlines, mass catering and teaching in universities. Having worked in 13 different countries across the spectrum of the food and beverage industry, Gugler moved to Saudi Arabia in 2002 to join Saudi Arabian Airlines as their executive master chef. In 2009, he co-founded the Saudi Arabian Chefs Association.

“I knew I wanted to become a chef since I was two,” Gugler told Arab News. “My mother and grandmother were both fantastic cooks and that’s how I fell in love with this profession.”

He’s come a long way since he was two in his 35-year-long career, 17 of which he has spent in Saudi Arabia.

Now, as president of the World Association of Chefs Societies, he is tasked with the significant responsibility of leading more than 10 million members from across 110 countries.

“We organize worldwide cooking competitions and educational programs, as well as look into issues such as sustainability and cultural cooking. Our role is to build bridges between the commercial part and the consumers.”

With the head of such a prestigious global organization being based in Saudi Arabia, the local industry should be poised for growth, but, according to Gugler, there is plenty of room for improvement.

“Generally, the cooking and food standards here are not the best but with time and effort all this will be developed more and more,” he said.

Socio-political changes and the boost to the Saudi tourism sector will go a long way in developing the food and beverage industry, he believes.

“This will motivate and benefit the entire hospitality industry and raise the level, which is necessary. Stricter rules, regulations and food safety practices will encourage young and talented people in the industry to become better. It’s a golden opportunity,” Gugler said

His personal preference in food veers toward the local. “I like Arabic cuisine. The best kind is the cultural ethnic cuisine, the heritage of which can be traced back centuries. The local Hijazi cuisine is something no one should miss,” he said.


Storm in a teacup as Dhaka gets taste for ‘rainbow’ tea

A tea lover tastes the ‘rainbow seven color tea.’ (AN photo by Shehab Sumon)
Updated 19 January 2019
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Storm in a teacup as Dhaka gets taste for ‘rainbow’ tea

  • Nutrition experts suggest that spices or food colors must be used to create the tea’s rainbow effect
  • In 2006, Gour opened a tea shop selling five-layered, multicolor tea. The tea proved popular, with people traveling from Dhaka to sample the unique offering

DHAKA: The flavors and traditions associated with tea drinking are well established with a history going back centuries. Now a unique “rainbow tea” developed in Bangladesh looks like it is stirring up a revolution in tea-lovers’ tastes.
The tea, which offers seven distinct layers of color and flavor in each cup, has become the talk of Dhaka.
Rainbow tea was developed by Saiful Islam, 32, a tea vendor from Sreemangal, near Sylhet, about 175 km northeast of the capital.
According to Islam, the tea-producing region where he was born was the inspiration for his new type of tea.
“Since my childhood, I admired the surroundings where tea was produced and then sent to every corner of the country as well as abroad,” he said.
Islam said that after finishing his education, “I was in a fix about what to do. My passion for producing a better tea with better taste grew stronger as the days went by. I was experimenting with different kinds of tea and, finally, I hit the jackpot and realized my dream. I invented the rainbow seven-color tea.”
However, the idea of tea with multicolored layers is far from new in Sreemangal. Romesh Ram Gour, another tea vendor and a neighbor of Islam, had previously developed a five-layered tea.
In 2006, Gour opened a tea shop selling five-layered, multicolor tea. The tea proved popular, with people traveling from Dhaka to sample the unique offering.
Inspired by Gour’s multicolored tea, a young Islam came up with his “rainbow seven-color tea” and opened a shop Sreemangal.
Due to growing demand, after one year he relocated his parlor to Dhaka’s Khilgaon Taltola market. Since launching in the capital, Islam’s rainbow tea has continued to grow in popularity, with the city’s tea-lovers happily paying $1 a cup for a rare drinking experience.
Now, the rainbow tea is adding to Khilgaon Taltola market’s appeal as people of all ages and walks of life visit the tea shop.
“It’s a unique experience to have different tastes with one cup of tea. I have never tasted anything like this,” said Shyamoli Islam Shuverthy, a Dhaka resident.
“I have heard of this rainbow tea many times, but today I finally had the chance to taste it and I’m really excited.”
Arifur Rahman, another tea-lover, told Arab News: “This tea perks me up with its unique flavor. I try to enjoy this tea whenever I meet my friends.”
Islam is determined to keep the recipe for his rainbow tea a secret. In the shop, he prepares the tea in a corner hidden behind a dark screen to avoid prying eyes.
“I use black tea, green tea, coffee, milk, orange and strawberry. But the method is a trade secret,” he told Arab News while working in his stall at Dhaka International Trade Fair.
Nutrition experts suggest that spices or food colors must be used to create the tea’s rainbow effect.
“However, these are not harmful to people,” Abdullah Al-Mamun, of Noakhali University, said.
With his new brand of tea, Islam, the father of two daughters, earns around $600 per month.
With demand growing at home and abroad, Islam is planning to expand his business. Two new outlets at Narayangonj and Gazipur, on the outskirts of Dhaka, are due to open later this year.
One of Islam’s friends, who lives in Canberra, Australia, also hopes to launch the rainbow tea there.
“I hope my ‘rainbow seven-color tea’ can win the hearts of people on every continent,” Islam said.