Perfect recipe: Saudi women chefs are putting change on the menu at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton

Perfect recipe: Saudi women chefs are putting change on the menu at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton
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Chef Al-Maha Al-Dossary serves up a vegan delight. (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)
Perfect recipe: Saudi women chefs are putting change on the menu at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton
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Sushi chef Habeeba Abdullah prepares her favorite cuisine.  (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)
Perfect recipe: Saudi women chefs are putting change on the menu at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton
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Ritz-Carlton’s women chefs (from left): Reem Al-Saeed, Nooriyah Al-Ghamdi, Areej Al-Juma’a, Al-Maha Al-Dossary, Basma Al-Jalal, Fadwa Al-Rumaih, Um Abdullah Al-Maliki and Habeeba Abdullah. (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)
Updated 25 July 2018

Perfect recipe: Saudi women chefs are putting change on the menu at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton

Perfect recipe: Saudi women chefs are putting change on the menu at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton
  • Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh opened its doors to female chefs two years ago, becoming one of the first hotels in the Kingdom to employ women in the kitchen
  • Chef Al-Maha Al-Dossary was a corporate banker before deciding to pursue her dream of cooking

RIYADH: In Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton, one of the most renowned hotels in the world, Saudi female chefs have taken over the kitchen. Their mission? To show the world the true meaning of Arabian hospitality by delighting visitors’ palates. Traditional Saudi dishes are their specialty, but the cuisine is international, ranging from Italian to Chinese.

The chefs work in the hotel’s three restaurants: Hong, which features classic and modern Chinese cuisine; Azzurro, where fresh, seasonal ingredients are used to prepare classic Italian dishes with a modern twist; and Al Orjouan, an all-day dining buffet that serves a large brunch on Fridays. 

In line with Vision 2030, the hotel opened its doors to female chefs two years ago, becoming one of the first hotels in the Kingdom to employ women in the kitchen. It now has 15 women chefs, with more on the way.

“The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh is working in line with Saudi’s Vision 2030 in employing females in all departments of the hotel, culinary included,” said hotel manager Mohammed Marghalani. “However, we haven’t recruited them simply because they are women but because they are competent and excel in what they do, and that has always been our vision: To have a dedicated team of professionals that work together.” 

Chef Al-Maha Al-Dossary, who grew up in Riyadh, was a corporate banker before deciding to pursue her dream of cooking. Her journey is one that will inspire others.

“Working at the bank was somewhat boring because it was routine. I would come back home, cook and bake. An epiphany hit me while cooking and doing what I love, and that was since I enjoy doing it so much, why don’t I make it my career? It was an impulsive decision, but one I don’t regret. If you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life.”

After deciding to advance her career as a chef, Al-Dossary graduated from Le Cordon Bleu culinary school  in London. “I studied there for three years. In the beginning, I was sure that I wanted to be a pastry chef, but then I studied cuisine and I found the hot kitchen engaging and active.

“Once I returned from my studies, I applied at the Ritz because it’s an excellent hub to improve yourself, since we have exposure and engagement.” 

The vegan chef, who enjoys a meat-free diet, is part of the Ritz-Carlton’s Voyager program, which prepares chefs to become managers. Al-Dossary said: “I began from the commissary, which receives food, and worked up to the Italian cuisine, going through all the stages of kitchen work and taking it step by step to learn the whole process.” 

Al-Dossary hopes to open a chain of vegan restaurants in the future. 

Sushi chef Habeeba Abdullah began cooking at the age of 11. She cooked her first full lamb with her uncle. “He kissed my forehead after we had completed the feast, and I felt a sense of pride. His encouragement helped pave the path of my culinary love, and his support made me feel I will be something big some day.” 

Abdullah is a member of the Saudi Arabian Chefs Association, which offered her the chance to learn the art of making sushi, inviting her to a course in Jeddah. The week-long course gave trainees a sense that they were truly in Japan, she said, with Japanese chefs teaching her how to make sushi from scratch. “It was a new experience and I wanted to be a part of the new generation and prepare foods that they will enjoy.” 

Asked about her ambitions, she said: “I aspired from the beginning, from cooking at home to cooking worldwide. I now consider myself (as if I were) working in the royal palace, which is the start of my launch to worldwide.” 

Fadwa Al-Rumaih attributes her love of cooking to her upbringing. “My mother was my inspiration. Ever since I was young, we would cook together. The Ritz-Carlton gave me the chance to work in a world-renowned hotel and further my skills.” Saudi food is Al-Rumaih’s  specialty, and she enjoys nothing more than seeing happy eaters who leave with a smile. 

Chef Um Abdullah Al-Maliki said: “I cook with love. Cooking is my passion. I make breakfast in the morning for my kids. Then, after taking them to school, I cook at the hotel and come back once more to make a delicious meal for my family.” 

Asked if she ever tires of the kitchen, since she basically spends all day in it, her reply was “never.”

 “How can you get bored with your passion? I consider myself lucky that I get to do what I love, with love. No day goes without me being in the kitchen, whether at home or in the hotel. It’s my element and one that I feel most happy in,” she said.

One of the most challenging dining seasons is during Ramadan. Buffets are served after sundown until the sun comes up. It is the busiest time of year for these chefs — but also the most enjoyable.

“The happiness we feel when the serving dishes come back to kitchen empty is indescribable,” Al-Maliki said. 

The demand was high, with the chefs serving more than 25 roasted lambs each day in Ramadan, along with more than 180 kilograms of rice.

“Ramadan usually is a stressful time for us because of the workload, but I can honestly say that it is the most memorable,” Al-Maliki said. 

No food is wasted or thrown away, since the Ritz-Carlton has partnered with a charitable organization to distribute excess food to the needy throughout the year. 

While interviewing the female chefs, I noticed a young male Saudi chef helping the women out. “We consider ourselves a family,” said Salah Al-Dien bin Taleb, a junior sous chef. 

He has been at the Ritz for two years, and was surprised when the women joined.

“I must say that I was surprised by their persistence in doing a good job and their high work ethic. Even in the simplest of things, they are extremely detailed. Also, they do not restrict themselves to a certain cuisine. The sky’s the limit, and they are always determined to learn new things.” 

“All of us have the same dream, which is to have Saudi cuisine featured internationally in restaurants worldwide. That is what we are working hard for,” said chef Reem Al-Saeed. 

“Saudi Arabia is large, with many different regions that serve a vast variety of dishes. All tastes are satisfied, because of the large selection we have.” 


International Sushi Day: Delicious spots to try in Saudi Arabia

International Sushi Day: Delicious spots to try in Saudi Arabia
Updated 18 June 2021

International Sushi Day: Delicious spots to try in Saudi Arabia

International Sushi Day: Delicious spots to try in Saudi Arabia

In honor of International Sushi Day celebrated on June 18, here are six sushi spots to try in Saudi Arabia, rounded up by Arab News Japan.  

Chez Sushi

This modern and casual restaurant on Prince Saud Al-Faisal Road in Jeddah feature custom dishes such as a Japanese burrito and attractive lunch offers.

Oishii Sushi

Owner Khulood Olaqi turned this home-based online store into a fully-fledged restaurant where she is both a chef and manager. Cozy, warm and welcoming, Oishii Sushi is located in Riyadh.

Sushi Centro

Promising sushi that is “rolled to perfection,” the restaurant also provides traditional Japanese food that is rich in flavor and flair. Sushi Centro has two branches in Saudi Arabia, one in Jeddah in Centro Shaheen Hotel, and the other in Riyadh’s Centro Waha Hotel.

Nozomi

Nozomi’s menu is internationally renowned and award-winning, offering an unrivaled fine-dining experience on Riyadh’s Dabab Street.

Wakame

A hip restaurant that plays host to business meetings, gossip and fast-paced service at a dimly lit sushi bar, Wakame has three branches in Jeddah: In Ar Rawdah district, in Obhur and on Al-Malik Road.

Sushi Yoshi

A franchise with branches in Riyadh, Jeddah and Alkhobar where guests can enjoy anime with their sushi. 


Paws for thought: Inside Riyadh’s first cat café

Paws for thought: Inside Riyadh’s first cat café
Updated 18 June 2021

Paws for thought: Inside Riyadh’s first cat café

Paws for thought: Inside Riyadh’s first cat café
  • Arab News visits the recently opened Cup & Cat Café in As-Sahafah

RIYADH: The cat café phenomenon — which began in Taiwan more than 20 years ago — has finally reached the Saudi capital.

The Cup & Cat Café is located in Riyadh’s As-Sahafah district. When we visited, we saw people of all ages coming to enjoy the cats, from university students studying on their laptops, to small toddlers running around petting their furry friends.

It is designed to be a calming place — from the relaxing music to the light, neutral colors of the walls and furniture. all of which immediately puts visitors at ease.

The Cup & Cat Café is located in Riyadh’s As-Sahafah district. (Supplied)

On the ground floor of the two-story establishment are booths and seating areas for guests, along with a coffee bar. The café offers a fairly standard selection of drinks, including coffees and blended beverages such as chocolate milkshakes and cold mojitos. There are also snacks on offer, including French fries, cakes and pastries.

The food is fine, but nothing to get excited about. But, let’s face it, no one’s visiting a cat café because they want to get a great meal. Instead, they’re going to grab their drinks and head up the stairs (or take the elevator) to the second story, where the main attractions await.

The cats’ ‘home base’ is sectioned off by a gate and is, happily, extremely well-maintained. There are plenty of resting areas for the cats, and even a separate ‘quiet room’ with glass walls where visitors can sit in a calm space with the animal(s) of their choice.

There are plenty of resting areas for the cats, and even a separate ‘quiet room’ with glass walls where visitors can sit in a calm space with the animal(s) of their choice. (Supplied)

It’s worth mentioning that there are currently only three cats in the café, however, but the baristas did mention that they plan to expand and add more in the near future.

Potential visitors will likely have some concerns over hygiene and smells, but this was honestly one of the cleanest cafés we have visited in Riyadh; every surface was immaculate and there are sanitizer stations placed throughout along with a chart of procedures on every table to ensure the cats are being handled in a safe, hygienic manner that is enjoyable for both humans and animals. This is an all-ages café, and such advice is particularly important for young children who wish to handle the cats.

The whole place is very family-friendly, with a children’s section upstairs equipped with a selection of books, a TV, and several small cat toys. (Supplied)

The Cup & Cat Café is actually a great place for kids to learn about interacting safely with animals and to learn more about pets’ needs. The whole place is very family-friendly, with a children’s section upstairs equipped with a selection of books, a TV, and several small cat toys.

But it’s also a good place to just hang out with some friends (it’s open until 2 a.m.) or to get on with some work, especially when it first opens at 4 p.m. It’s a quiet location with free wi-fi, so you can bring along your laptop, find a secluded corner and get to work — possibly with a cat on your lap.

Overall, our visit was a very therapeutic experience. It’s hard to feel stressed with a purring kitty next to you, and it seemed that the animals themselves were happy with the situation too — they were all very friendly with guests, allowing themselves to be petted and fussed over. Expect to see the Cup & Cat Café making plenty of appearances on social media over the summer.


What We Are Eating Today: Carnivore kitchen

What We Are Eating Today: Carnivore kitchen
Updated 18 June 2021

What We Are Eating Today: Carnivore kitchen

What We Are Eating Today: Carnivore kitchen

Carnivore Kitchen is a Saudi local brand specializing in smoked food.

The business was originally established as a home venture by friends Sari Al-Harbi and Elyassin Al-Bukhari but has grown in line with its popularity among meat eaters.

Offering smoked meats, vegetables, and nuts with a Saudi twist, customers can pick from a range of cuts including chicken, full lamb with vegetables, and smoked najel fish.

Equipment capable of smoking up to 200 kilograms of meat per week produces tender and moist brisket that has been cooked for more than 18 hours, and the company’s lamb products are made over 12 hours using the same seasonings and smoking techniques as for American brisket. For more information, check Instagram @carnivore.k


Where We Are Going Today: Buttermilk

Where We Are Going Today: Buttermilk
Updated 11 June 2021

Where We Are Going Today: Buttermilk

Where We Are Going Today: Buttermilk

Buttermilk is a restaurant and bakery in the Al-Nakheel district of Riyadh serving classic American food.

It is inspired by southern cuisine and its hospitality, offering an array of traditional choices, from American pie, cornbread and mac & cheese to the famous Nashville chicken. That dish is presented with a country-style twist —a big portion of fried chicken and bread served in a basket.

Buttermilk’s signature order is the Harlem classic, buttermilk-fried chicken and waffle with honey and hot sauce on top of it. The delicious combination of sweet and salty with the crispness on the outside and the lightness of the waffle make it one of the best brunches you could ever taste.

Buttermilk is the go-to place for celebrations, as its relaxed and comfortable ambiance will suit your special occasions.

If you are into fine smoked ribs, you can choose your favorite style from the range on offer and enjoy a tender piece of beef covered with barbecue sauce. They also offer many types of steaks.


What We Are Drinking Today: So Tea

What We Are Drinking Today: So Tea
Updated 28 May 2021

What We Are Drinking Today: So Tea

What We Are Drinking Today: So Tea

Summer is close, which means we will need refreshing drinks to cool down the heat. 

So Tea is ready to satisfy our cooling demands. The Saudi brand offers a freshly prepared array of iced tea and locally made herbal drinks.

It was inspired by the healthy lifestyles of today’s younger generation, who are steering away from soft drinks.

The brand offers three main products inspired by Arabian flavors and herbal ingredients including iced tea, sobia and hibiscus.

So Tea’s natural flavorings and sweetness will keep you hydrated and cool during the day, with flavors including peach, grape and lemon.

The peach iced tea is mind-blowingly delicious. The total process of So Tea’s production — the chilling, steaming, and fermenting — is fully homemade.

Aside from iced tea, the brand also offers other refreshing cool drinks popular in the Middle Eastern region, including roselle, tamarind, and sobia. These three drinks are available throughout the year, but are more popular during Ramadan.

So Tea offers you a box of six bottles based on your choice of flavors. For more information visit the Instagram account @so.tea.sa