French school to train aspiring chefs from Al-Ula

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This photo taken on January 4, 2019 shows a view of the facade of the new purpose-built Maraya (Arabic for "Mirror") concert hall hosting the first "Winter at Tantora" music carnival in the ruins of Al-Ula, a UNESCO World Heritage site in northwestern Saudi Arabia. (AFP)
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Photo: Instagram
Updated 02 July 2019

French school to train aspiring chefs from Al-Ula

  • Initiative is aimed to develop KSA’s tourism jewel

AL-ULA: The Royal Commission for Al-Ula (RCU) has announced a partnership with FERRANDI Paris, France’s leading school of culinary arts and hospitality management.
The partnership will see the development of a world-class training program in gastronomy, which will take young and aspiring chefs from Al-Ula to study in the French capital.
During the first phase of the program, 24 chefs from Al-Ula will be chosen to take part in a specially curated four-month course at the school. Senior experts from FERRANDI will visit Al-Ula to interview applicants and select 24 participants.
After their return to Al-Ula, the newly trained chefs will have the chance to work under the supervision of 10 Michelin-starred chefs to craft locally inspired “Taste of Al-Ula” menus to be served to VIP guests attending the second season of Winter at Tantora, held annually in Al-Ula.
RCU’s CEO Amr Al-Madani said the initiative represented another key program in a series that the RCU is offering to Al-Ula citizens, to deliver innovative employment opportunities based in personal and professional development.
“This partnership with FERRANDI Paris will equip a new generation of talented Al-Ula men and women with the tools necessary to become the leading chefs and culinary entrepreneurs,” he said.
FERRANDI Paris CEO Bruno de Monte expressed his pleasure in welcoming the youth of Al-Ula to Paris and the school. “We have built a program especially for them, the future culinary greats of Saudi Arabian gastronomy,” he said.
Gerard Mestrallet, executive president of the French Agency for Al-Ula Development (AFALULA), said: “As a partner of RCU in the development of Al-Ula, AFALULA is very proud of this partnership with FERRANDI. It will allow the new generations of Al-Ula young chefs to capitalize on French excellence in the field of culinary art and hospitality management.”
RCU’s partnership with FERRANDI Paris, developed under the leadership of Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammad bin Farhan Al-Saud, comes under the efforts exerted by RCU to build and develop Al-Ula youths’ potential through global cultural exchanges and dedication to international best practice.


• The Royal Commission for Al-Ula has announced partnership with FERRANDI Paris.

• Selected candidates from Al-Ula will be sent to Paris for training.

• Newly trained chefs will get an opportunity to work under 10 Michelin-starred chefs in the Kingdom.

To be considered for the program, candidates must be between 21 and 35 years old, graduates of Al-Ula high schools and have an intermediate knowledge of English.
The application period will be between July 5 and July 9. Candidates can submit applications online at
The names of 24 successful applicants will be announced on July 26 following interviews by FERRANDI Paris tutors in Al-Ula, and training will begin by the end of August.

The culinary initiative is in line with the objectives of RCU’s charter to help create and inspire new and diverse economic sectors in Al-Ula while involving the local community. The initiative is the latest component of a plan to develop Al-Ula and its natural wonders and ancient cultural sites into one of the world’s leading tourism destinations.
FERRANDI Paris was founded in 1920 by the CCI Paris Ile-de-France, offering an array of programs up to master’s degrees, all of which prepare students for a career in gastronomy or hotel management. FERRANDI Paris is the only school in the hotel and restaurant sector in France whose bachelor diplomas are recognized by the Ministry of Higher Education and Innovation.
FERRANDI teaches 2,500 students and 2,000 professionals and individuals seeking a career change from France and abroad.

Cocoa bean harvest: A sweet opportunity for Saudi Arabia

Gebran Al-Maliki, owner of a cocoa plantation, says introducing cocoa will help reshape the agriculture sector. (Photos/Supplied)
Updated 55 min 57 sec ago

Cocoa bean harvest: A sweet opportunity for Saudi Arabia

  • The Jazan region is known for its lush, green lands and fertile soil that possesses the necessary ingredients to ensure the development of other crops that guarantee continuity and different harvest times for each type of plant harvested in the area

MAKKAH: In an unprecedented experience for the Kingdom, a harvest season of more than 200 cocoa shrubs began this year in Jazan following several years of planting the Filipino seedlings.

The foreign plant is a new experiment for the Kingdom as it plans on testing out the long-term success of planting the favored sweet treat.

Specialists in the region pointed out that the cocoa shrub resembles the famous coffee shrub found in the south region of the Kingdom, where a number of farmers have already begun to evaluate the experience and continue cultivating land to make room for more, while others were not so successful.

The supervisor of the Mountain Areas Development and Reconstruction Authority in Jazan, Eng. Bandar Al-Fifi, said: “The cocoa shrub is a tropical or subtropical shrub and is native to South America and East Asia. It was presented to the Mountain Regions Development and Reconstruction Authority a few years back, specifically to the agricultural research station.”

He added: “The cultivation process was carried out six years ago by bringing seeds and seedlings from the Philippines. The seeds were cultivated and seedlings were distributed to some interested farmers in the region.

“We in the station’s field have cocoa, banana, mango and guava trees, as well as many tropical and subtropical trees. The field is being used as a guarantor of seeds, in addition to conducting tests and real experiments in an area of 200 meters, in particular on 15 cocoa plants and the first cocoa shrub in Saudi Arabia.”

He told Arab News that it was difficult at first to encourage farmers to invest in the plant, as many were hesitant to introduce a plant not indigenous to the region in order to facilitate the establishment of manufacturing factories and grow a local market.

Al-Fifi said that in Ethiopia, companies buy crops from farmers and then start an integrated industrial process of sorting, cleaning, drying and roasting, because to complete the whole process is not economically viable for farmers alone.

“If every farmer owns 30 cocoa shrubs, this will be an additional source of income for their future,” he added.

The Jazan region is known for its lush, green lands and fertile soil that possesses the necessary ingredients to ensure the development of other crops that guarantee continuity and different harvest times for each type of plant harvested in the area. Rainfall is abundant, seasonal fluctuations in rainfall are scarce and humidity is high, ensuring that soil continues to retain the moisture it requires for harvests.

“In addition to the fact that the temperature gap between small and mature shrubs is not big, due to our proximity to the equator, Saudi Arabia is located below the tropical line, which creates environmental conditions that help the shrub grow,” said Al-Fifi.

Gebran Al-Maliki, one of the owners of a cocoa plantation in Jazan, told Arab News: “Adding cocoa to the Kingdom’s agricultural field is one of the innovative things in Saudi Arabia and it began to give good results that would broadly stimulate the development process, provide an agricultural model that can be trusted and improve experience in a country that supports its farmers and provides them with all the required capabilities.”

He received seeds and seedlings by the end of 2016 as an experiment in which everyone was granted support. “Some wanted to give this new experience a try, because it is similar to the coffee plant. It is an ordinary shrub, just like fruit and citrus trees, but it is a drought-tolerant shrub that is watered once a week.”

To successfully cultivate the fruit, Al-Maliki said that shrubs need shade when first planted in the ground as they are “quite finicky,” but that with the proper care and attention, a tree will flower at about three to four years of age and can grow up to two meters in height.

With up to 400 seeds, the product testing began on his farm after just four years.

“You can find 30 to 50 seeds inside a pod, which are later dried under the sun and ground to become a ready-to-use powder. Cocoa powder can be found in chocolate, oils and cosmetics, in addition to several other uses,” Al-Maliki said.

He said that the seed is very bitter and explained that the more bitter, the better the quality. He added that he has four shrubs, and what hindered the spreading process was waiting for the product quality test results, indicating that the fruit was tried and was found very successful.

The agricultural research station for the Development and Reconstruction of Agricultural Areas aim to reach 50 shrubs in the region to provide enough fruit to produce seeds and seedlings for farmers. Al-Fifi said that they aim to reach 400 seedlings per year that will be distributed, on top of seedlings grown by the region’s farmers themselves.