Start-up of the Week: Saudi chef’s fusion cuisine aims to satisfy all cultures

The main encouragement to start his business came from his family, friends and followers on social media. (Supplied)
Updated 19 September 2018
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Start-up of the Week: Saudi chef’s fusion cuisine aims to satisfy all cultures

RIYADH: Mansour Ismail, owner and head chef at Chef Culture, said what makes his establishment unique is that people feel as if they are eating at home.
Chef Culture, in the north of the eastern province of Alkhobar, specializes in traditional Gulf and international fusion cuisine. It was launched on May 25 and provides catering and takeaway services.
“I started my restaurant because I believe I have a unique touch which is going to spread across the world,” Mansour told Arab News.
The main encouragement to start his business came from his family, friends and followers on social media, he added. Chef Culture’s signature dish is tandoori lamb, a reflection of the fusion of Gulf and Indian cuisine. “What makes this dish unique is the balance between the two cultures in terms of spices and flavor. This has always been the best-selling dish on our menu,” said Mansour.
Another example of mixed flavors is the Japanese dish shrimp tempura, which is made with Halabi pistachio. Mansour added that a popular order with their catering services has always been the cherry kebab, in which Gulf and Armenian flavors are blended together. What gives this dish its distinctive flavor is that its cherry sauce is made from fresh produce.
“Our main concentration in Chef Culture is in mixing different influences of food from around the world,” said Mansour. He added that all the dishes were created from scratch and took him through trial phases of tasting the food before he was satisfied with the end result of his creations.
The goal at Chef Culture is to showcase Gulf cuisine with an inter-national twist by providing a blend of flavors and a taste that suits the palates of different cultures.
Mansour’s message to aspiring chefs is that the food industry is growing at a rapid pace and that there are big opportunities for talented people to thrive in the culinary world.
He started cooking 12 years ago as an amateur, then decided to develop his hobby by attending cooking courses in India. The chef also attended local and international live cooking shows. This gave Mansour the idea to mix Gulf cuisine with others from around the world, particularly from India, to create his fusion food menu.


Saudi home-bakers cooking up sweet business on internet

Nada Kutbi started baking from home for family and friends before setting up her Sucre De Nada pastry shop to expand her home business. (Photos/Supplied)
Updated 22 May 2019
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Saudi home-bakers cooking up sweet business on internet

  • Thanks to social media, business is booming for Jeddah’s cake and pastry makers

JEDDAH: Enterprising Saudi home-bakers have been turning to social media to help cook up some sweet business success.
The Kingdom’s food producers are proving to be some of the rising stars of the internet, and none more so than 53-year-old mom Nada Kutbi.
Her Sucre De Nada pastry shop in Jeddah has become one of the go-to places for homemade desserts and cakes, and the online side of her business is also booming.
Kutbi’s daughter, Nassiba Khashoggi, told Arab News: “She has basically been baking all her life, especially after having children. She used to make cookies for us and whenever she tried a dessert somewhere else, she would recreate it.
“In restaurants or gatherings, she would always analyze sweets and make them at home for her family. That was how she started baking.
“I don’t think she ever thought she could pursue it as a career, but everyone loved her baking and one of her closest friends encouraged her to start her business when she was a stay-at-home mom.
“It was in 2011-2012, and her friend basically forced her to start by telling her, ‘yallah! make a cake and I will buy it from you now.’”
Khashoggi added: “In the beginning we just went by word of mouth, but when Instagram came along, we made an account and started posting pictures and the customers loved her creativity and uniqueness. I don’t think many people knew what banoffee was before my mom promoted it.”
Although Kutbi’s unique takes and touches went down a treat with customers, it was not until Ramadan last year that she officially opened her bakery in Jeddah.
But stepping up from running a home business presented new challenges. “When you are running a home business there are few staff and it is easy to control,” said Khashoggi. But expanding requires you to put more trust in other people and that was difficult for my mom. Also, when we increased the number of our products it became harder to maintain the quality of goods.”
Kutbi aims to avoid storing, pre-baking or freezing her products and is not a fan of mass production and blast freezing, according to her daughter. “In short, she is against commercial baking,” said Khashoggi. “What is unique about my mom is that everything she makes is made the same day from scratch. It makes it harder for her to redo everything but that’s what makes her special.”

HIGHLIGHtS

• The Kingdom’s food producers are proving to be some of the rising stars of the internet, none more so than 53-year-old mom Nada Kutbi.

• Kutbi’s unique takes and touches have been a hit with customer, but it was not until Ramadan last year that she officially opened her bakery in Jeddah.

Sometimes customers even send pictures or pieces of dessert to Kutbi asking her to recreate their favorite foods.
Another Jeddah-based bakery thriving on the internet is Ganache. Run by Anas Khashoggi, 58, and Jamila Ali Islam, 48, the pastry business has been operating for almost 20 years.
Khashoggi supported his wife after spotting her talent for baking and took a leap of faith by giving up his job and starting an online bakery.
“At that time, there was no social media, but we made an introductory website, which helped us gain popularity,” he said. That was in 1996, and the couple’s first store opened later the same year.
“Ganache has its own unique spirit as a family business, and it is run by Saudi youth who are managing the bakery and understand the Saudi market. The family committee is the one that approves the products,” added Khashoggi.