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.” 


What We Are Buying Today: BEES

What We Are Buying Today: BEES
Photo/Supplied
Updated 20 February 2021

What We Are Buying Today: BEES

What We Are Buying Today: BEES
  • BEES offers a variety of raw honey products and types, including white clover, twohig, konak and manuka, in small and large jars

BEES is a Saudi brand that supports the production of local and imported honey, and aims to spread awareness about bees and healthy food.
The company works with beekeepers and food producers from around the world to bring the finest products to the Saudi market.
BEES offers a variety of raw honey products and types, including white clover, twohig, konak and manuka, in small and large jars.
Manuka honey is said to possess natural medicinal and antibacterial powers, and is ranked according to a “unique manuka factor,” which indicates its healing properties.
The company’s portable mini honey packets allow honey to be taken anywhere. The 5 gm packets are available in all honey types, and will help you start your day with a healthy dose of sweetness in your tea or hot drink.
For more information visit Instagram @bees.sa or check linktr.ee/BEES.SA


Experts warn of ‘dangerous’ keto diet side effects

Experts warn of ‘dangerous’ keto diet side effects
A reduction of carbohydrate intake and increase in fats place the body in a metabolic state called ketosis. (Supplied)
Updated 20 February 2021

Experts warn of ‘dangerous’ keto diet side effects

Experts warn of ‘dangerous’ keto diet side effects
  • “The keto diet can also affect your performance during certain exercises, and you won’t be able to work out as intensely or as often as before”

JEDDAH: The ketogenic diet has become one of the fastest-growing dietary trends, but experts have warned that many of its advocates are unaware of the dangerous side effects the diet can cause.

According to Healthline.com, the ketogenic diet, commonly known as keto, is a low-carb, high-fat diet that shares similarities with low carb and Atkins diets. A reduction of carbohydrate intake and increase in fats place the body in a metabolic state called ketosis.
However, the diet has led to severe side effects for some people.
“The keto diet should only be done under clinical supervision, and only for brief periods of time,” Dr. Ruwaida Idrees, a nutritionist, CEO and owner of Hayati Ghethaei, a catering company, told Arab News.
She added that the keto diet should only be considered in “extreme cases,” because it can do “more harm than good.”
Idrees said: “It can cause damage to the heart, since the heart is also a muscle.”
Consulting a doctor, completing necessary tests and discussing goals with a clinical dietitian should all be considered before starting a keto diet, she added.
Idrees said there are many misconceptions surrounding the keto diet and exercise, adding that exercise can still reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity and other health conditions.
People need to be careful about the types of exercises they practice, she said. “The keto diet can also affect your performance during certain exercises, and you won’t be able to work out as intensely or as often as before.”
Fouz Ghannamil, a fitness trainer, told Arab News that the diet appeared to work for many people. “It is good, but my own opinion is that the human body needs more nutrition than just fat and a really small dose of carbohydrates.”
She added: “It has a high portion of proteins which is good, but the fat sources, no matter how good they are, are a bit too much. It is better in my opinion that the portion of fat and carbs is balanced.”
Ghannamil suggested a better alternative for people looking to shed pounds this year — sticking to a diet of “80 percent healthy food and 20 percent junk food.
“Because naturally, your mind will desire junk food that is not natural, however, it has loads of fat in and your body can use it as an energy source.”
She warned people considering a new diet to stick to a balanced nutrition pyramid that contains everything they need: Protein, carbohydrates and fat.
She added that people should avoid diets based solely on numbers rather than personal experience.
Idrees, on the other hand, proposed the Mediterranean diet as a simpler alternative to the keto diet, saying that it has a good balance of seafood and other sources of proteins, moderate portions of dairy and a limited intake of red meat.


What We Are Eating Today: Maui

What We Are Eating Today: Maui
Photo/Supplied
Updated 19 February 2021

What We Are Eating Today: Maui

What We Are Eating Today: Maui
  • Customers can also create their own poke bowls using their favorite ingredients, marinades, toppings, and sauces

A Hawaiian-concept restaurant is bringing the taste of the tropics to Saudi Arabia.
Based in Jeddah, Maui offers an array of classic dishes — with a Japanese and Mexican twist — from the Pacific US state including poke bowls, soups, salads, and juices.
The eatery, that accepts online orders only, has a mouthwatering menu consisting of sushi burritos or sushi wrap sandwiches using seaweed nori sheet instead of flatbread. They are available with five different fillings including fresh raw salmon or tuna, tempura shrimp or chicken, and vegan and vegetarian choices.
Customers can also create their own poke bowls using their favorite ingredients, marinades, toppings, and sauces.
Maui is available on delivery platforms @lugmety, @thechefz_, and @careemksa.


Startup of the Week: A Jeddah-based store offering eco-friendly alternatives

Startup of the Week: A Jeddah-based store  offering eco-friendly alternatives
Photo/Supplied
Updated 16 February 2021

Startup of the Week: A Jeddah-based store offering eco-friendly alternatives

Startup of the Week: A Jeddah-based store  offering eco-friendly alternatives
  • The startup is planning to add wooden utensils, bamboo straws and key charms made from coconut shells to its line of products

C.B. Jeddah is a store where you can find high-quality, handmade coconut and wooden bowls, which are ideal for all kinds of food, from ice cream to soups, salads and even hot curry. The Jeddah-based store ships orders all over the Kingdom.
Shaima Agil, a public administration student, inaugurated the store last month.
The idea came to her when she decided to adopt a more health-conscious lifestyle and went online to look for recipes. “I saw a picture of a smoothie in a coconut bowl, and I was fascinated by how beautiful it was! It was hard to get one here in Saudi Arabia, though, so I thought: Why don’t I buy these bowls myself and try to sell them here? I’ve been always interested in natural, environment-friendly products, so I bought many bowls and created an Instagram account to display them.”
The startup is planning to add wooden utensils, bamboo straws and key charms made from coconut shells to its line of products.
C.B. Jeddah imports its bowls from Indonesia, where coconut palms grow in abundance and where talented local artisans make the bowls by hand.
Agil explained that artisans first split the coconuts in half, drain them of water, carve out the flesh, then craft and polish them gently until they shine.
“Nature gives us everything we need, so let’s be nice and not harm it with industrial waste,” she said.
Environmental sustainability was at the heart of her startup.
“The huge amounts of coconuts used by companies to produce their different products result in much waste. Some countries burn them, which increases carbon and other harmful emissions. That is why reclaiming them and recycling them helps our planet.”
Customers can text C.B. Jeddah via direct messages on their Instagram account @c.b.jeddah.
“Our products are suitable for those who love nature, decorating and food photography. They also make great gifts,” said the founder.


Saudi chef shares his love for gastronomy — and a Valentine’s Day recipe for two

 Saudi chef shares his love for gastronomy — and a Valentine’s Day recipe for two
Saudi chef Faisal Al-Deleigan. (Supplied)
Updated 13 February 2021

Saudi chef shares his love for gastronomy — and a Valentine’s Day recipe for two

 Saudi chef shares his love for gastronomy — and a Valentine’s Day recipe for two

DUBAI: When the Saudi chef Faisal Al-Deleigan was younger, his mother hoped he would pursue a career in either medicine or engineering. “My mom is so strict,” he told Arab News with a chuckle, “nobody was allowed to enter the kitchen because she’s so organized and she’s a good cook.”

However, things did not go according to his mother’s plan — he worked in the banking sector for years until he had a rather extreme change of heart.

Al-Deleigan, who is based in Bahrain, took cooking classes at professional schools in Italy and the UK and eventually quit the corporate world for good. However, he notes that his former banking experience came in handy when setting up his namesake culinary consultancy in 2016. “I still love numbers and I believe they helped me a lot in the way of thinking and business,” he said.

Through his consultancy services, Al-Deleigan offers to train kitchen staff, design kitchen layouts and, most importantly, engineer menus, experimenting with dishes that fuse multicultural tastes and ingredients. The journey so far has been rewarding — “I reached what I wanted: To see my customers smile and that (appreciation) makes me feel very good. Everyone likes food and nowadays it’s part of entertainment,” he said.

This year marks the second occasion that Valentine’s Day is being openly celebrated in Saudi Arabia and despite restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Al-Deleigan has been busy prepping recipes for couples to cook together from his new “Lockdown Menu,” which will be published in international magazines. On what people can expect, he explained: “I’m more into the healthy kind of cooking. Because of the lockdown and lack of exercise, our lifestyle is different now. So, we tried to make it lighter.”

Al-Deleigan hopes that through his unconventional story of breaking the norm, he can encourage people to follow their passion, whether it be performing in the field of art, music or gastronomy. “Everything is different,” he said, “we are a new generation with new hopes and dreams.”

If you haven’t sorted out your Valentine’s Day plans, scroll down for an exclusive healthy and simple recipe for two by Chef Faisal that you can whip up with your loved one today. Bon appétit!

Mango Spinach Salad

(Supplied)

Prep: 10 minutes

Total: 20 minutes

Servings: 2

Ingredients

Lolo roso 140gm

Baby Roca 40gm

Baby Spinach 40gm

Fresh Mango 60gm

Feta cheese 40gm

Sunflower seed 15gm

Grilled chicken 200gm

Extra virgin olive oil 50gm

U.S. mustard 20gm

Lemon juice 15gm

Sea salt 0.3gm

Black pepper powder 0.3gm

Honey 15gm

Garlic powder 0.3gm

Method

Put all the green leaves in a bowl and mix them with honey mustard dressing.

On the plate, drop the salad leaves and on the top, spread the grilled chicken.

Garnish with feta cheese and fresh mango (cut into dice shape) and sunflower seeds.

Prepare the honey mustard dressing. Blend everything for one minute: olive oil, U.S. mustard, honey, lemon juice, sea salt, pepper and garlic powder.