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.

Saudi pursuit of ‘green Kingdom’ goal gets a boost

Updated 18 November 2019

Saudi pursuit of ‘green Kingdom’ goal gets a boost

  • Agreement between agriculture ministry and Dubai's ICBA aimed at conserving natural resources
  • Kingdom's biosaline agriculture research and systems stands to benefit from ICBA's expertise

DUBAI: Agricultural development and environmental sustainability in Saudi Arabia will receive a boost in the coming years, thanks to a new agreement between the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) in Dubai and the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture.

The agreement aims to enable Saudi Arabia to achieve its goal of preservation and sustainable management of its natural resources by raising the quality of biosaline agriculture research and systems.

The ministry says that the agreement will make use of the ICBA’s expertise in capacity development besides agricultural and environmental research, especially in the fields of vegetation development, combating desertification and climate change adaptation.

“It also includes training programs for Saudi technicians and farmers,” the ministry said. “In addition, it will localize, implement and develop biosaline agriculture research and production systems for both crops and forestation, which contributes to environmental and agricultural integration.”

Dr. Ismahane Elouafi, the ICBA’s director general, told Arab News: “The agreement had been in the making for about two years. That was when we were approached by the Saudi government.”

Dr. Ismahane Elouafi, ICBA Director General, at the center's Quinoa fields in Dubai. (Supplied photo)

She said: “We put forward a proposal to demonstrate how the ICBA can help the Saudi government to implement its Green Kingdom Initiative, through which the ministry is trying to restore green coverage in the country and revive old conservation practices.”

Geographical features and climatic conditions very greatly from one part of the country to the other.

In the past, experimentation with such crops as potatoes, wheat and alfalfa proved detrimental to the Kingdom’s environment and natural resources due to faster rates of groundwater withdrawal.

“The ministry wanted to put a halt to over-abstraction of water, so they went through different policies,” Elouafi said.

“They made sure, for example, that farmers stopped producing wheat because about 2,400 liters of water is consumed to produce 1 kg of wheat. It was a huge amount,” she added.

“The new strategy is to find more appropriate crops for the farming community, which is quite large in the Kingdom.”

Saudi Arabia has been trying to grow its own food on a large scale since the 1980s. 

The objective of the Green Kingdom Initiative is to reduce the agricultural sector’s water demand by finding alternatives to thirsty crops.

The agreement will require the ICBA, over the next five years, to build for Saudi Arabia a new biosaline agriculture sector. 

As part of this shift, cultivation of a number of crops, notably quinoa, pearl millet and sorghum, will be piloted in high-salinity regions and then scaled up.

“The crops did very well in the UAE,” Elouafi said. “We’re looking at Sabkha regions, which have very high salinity and wetlands, and are on the ministry’s environmental agenda.”

Another objective is “smart” agriculture, which will involve raising water productivity, controlling irrigation water consumption and changing farming behavior.

Elouafi said that getting farmers in the Kingdom to stop cultivating wheat took some time as they had become accustomed to heavy government subsidies. In 2015, wheat production was phased out, followed by potatoes a year later and then alfalfa. 

“Farmers were provided everything to the point where they got used to a very good income and a very easy system,” she said.

“Now farmers are being asked to start producing something else, but the income won’t be the same, so it’s very important at this stage that the ministry has a plan and it’s fully understood.”

The agreement envisages preparation of proposals for ministry projects that involve plant production, drought monitoring, development of promising local crop and forestation varieties, and conservation of plant genetic resources.

“We’re also discussing capacity building because the ministry is big and has many entities. Because Saudi Arabia is a large country and has the capacity to meet some of its food requirements internally, what’s required is a better understanding of the country’s natural capabilities in terms of production of the crops it needs, like certain cereals,” Elouafi said.

“The way the authorities are going about it right now is more organized and more holistic. They’re trying to plan it properly.”

Elouafi said that having a better understanding of Saudi Arabia’s water constraints and managing the precious resource is essential.


Although almost the entire country is arid, there is rainfall in the north and along the mountain range to the west, especially in the far southwest, which receives monsoon rains in summer.


Sporadic rain may also occur elsewhere. Sometimes it is very heavy, causing serious flooding, including in Riyadh.

“They (the government) are very interested in drought management systems. The Kingdom has a long history of agriculture,” Elouafi said.

“It has large quantities of water in terms of rainfall, and certain regions have mountainous conditions, which are conducive to agriculture.”

Clearly, preservation of water resources is a priority for the Saudi government. But no less urgent is the task of conversion of green waste to improve soil quality, increase soil productivity and water retention, and reduce demand for irrigation.

The Kingdom is one of at least three Gulf Cooperation Council countries that are taking steps to develop a regulatory framework for the recycling of waste into compost.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman are respectively aiming to recycle 85 percent, 75 percent and 60 percent of their municipal solid waste over the next decade, according to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) entitled “Global Food Trends to 2030.”

Saudi Arabia and the UAE rank in the bottom quartile of the 34 countries covered by the EIU’s Food Sustainability Index, with low scores for nutrition and food loss and waste. 

The answer, according to many farmers, policymakers and food-industry experts, is a shift toward more sustainable management of each country’s natural resources.