Startup of the Week: Protein Laboratory: Making healthy eating fun and easy

Updated 17 September 2019

Startup of the Week: Protein Laboratory: Making healthy eating fun and easy

  • And with growing health awareness, many Saudis are switching over to more nutritious dietary habits

JEDDAH: An enterprising Saudi family is aiming to take the world by storm with its scientific approach to healthy eating.

The Bogari’s newly opened Protein Laboratory restaurant in Jeddah is the brainchild of brothers Ahmed, Hussain and Hassan.

The three doctors got the inspiration for their startup from hospital laboratories while studying in medical school, and with the help of their parents set about establishing their innovative culinary venture.

In recent years the health and fitness fad has become a flourishing business sector in the Kingdom, which has witnessed a dramatic rise in the number of gyms and fitness centers.

And with growing health awareness, many Saudis are switching over to more nutritious dietary habits. However, eating clean can be a challenge for those with busy, modern lifestyles who do not have the time to prepare meals.

Enter the Protein Laboratory, opened to add fun to the idea of healthy food. “We wanted to reintroduce the concept of healthy food to the Saudi health and fitness community,” Ahmed, 27, told Arab News.

“We believe that healthy food does not have to be boring and achieving your goal of fat loss can actually satisfy your taste buds and leave you happily full at the same time.

“We are planning to expand in Jeddah and Makkah to help more people achieve their fitness targets while enjoying tasty food, and we are aiming to be recognized globally,” he said.

The trio started planning their enterprise while studying at medical college but credit their parents’ support for helping turn their vision into a successful business launch.

Their father guided them in setting up the company and their mother took responsibility for the restaurant’s kitchen, playing a major role in developing recipes and supervising operations.

The brothers’ association with the field of medicine also helped them in their efforts. Ahmed was first inspired by hospital laboratories and the way researchers worked on minor details to get the best possible results.

“The long counters, glass walls, and test tubes are what I liked the most, in addition to the complete transparency of the place. It is exactly how I wanted our restaurant to be. Everything to be prepared and cooked just in front of the customer with a high level of attention to detail,” he added.

The idea behind the name Protein Laboratory was to ensure customers had the option to select, mix and create ingredients according to their taste or preference.

“Customers can order their meals according to their nutritional needs and preferences, starting with selecting the protein base, cooking method, side dishes, the sauce and portion of the meal’s components in grams.”

Ahmed said: “We use the healthiest cooking methods possible. We don’t use frozen meat; we blend our own spices and make sure everything is always made in the healthiest way.”

The brothers and their mother work like scientists. “We spent one year testing ingredients and creating healthy recipes. We had only one goal in mind: High protein in a healthy meal and a portion that could help us and others to stay healthy while still eating the food we desired with higher quality and better taste,” Ahmed added.

Their lab salad dish includes more than 20 organic ingredients high in protein, fiber and antioxidants. The restaurant’s burger has only 396 calories, and one of their best-selling desserts is a sugar-free banana pancake.

“We aim to make our prices within everyone’s reach,” Ahmed said.

One of the services offered by the restaurant is subscription to a meal plan drawn up according to the nutritional needs of the customer and delivered to their workplace or home.

Protein Laboratory is located in Helmi Kutbi Street, in Jeddah’s Al-Zahra district and can be followed on Instagram @proteinlabsa.


Traditional dish nourishes hope in Kabul

Updated 25 January 2020

Traditional dish nourishes hope in Kabul

  • Expats and Afghans queue together for taste of local eatery’s authentic stew

KABUL: The soft snap of customers breaking bread punctuates the silence in Waheed’s Restaurant in the heart of Kabul.

As the diners dunk pieces of hot and crispy naan into bowls of freshly cooked chinaki, or mutton stew, waiters can be seen craning their necks, looking for empty tables to accommodate those queuing outside the entrance.

The aroma of the traditional Afghan dish — made with lamb chops, lentils, onions, tomatoes, herbs, and spices — draws people to the restaurant every day, Abdul Waheed, the owner, told Arab News, adding that it is the least he can do to keep an authentic “Afghan tradition alive.”

“Other dishes like pizza, kabab and rice are much easier and take less time to cook,” the 43-year-old Waheed said. “But we are taking the trouble to keep the tradition alive despite getting the low returns on the dish compared with other meals.”

Chinaki is also known as teapot soup because of the vessel it was once cooked in — a teapot.

With a recipe dating back 150 years, the local dish is served by only a handful of Kabul restaurants and is one of the few remaining on menu lists as cafes and restaurants offering foreign cuisines take over.

Typical chinaki is cooked in small chinaware teapots, rarely available in markets and hard to mend after repeated use. Since the taste of the dish varies if cooked in a metal pot, customers are always on the hunt for restaurants that prepare the dish in the traditional style.

Depending on the number of pots, one or two cooks stand for hours to constantly stir the soup with a wooden spoon, adding a small amount of water at regular intervals to keep it from burning.

The arduous cooking process means the dish is cooked only once a day and served at lunchtime. Regular customers, however, know exactly what time to walk in.

“I come here at least four times a month,” Sher Ahmad said. “I like chinaki, it is my favorite food. I know people who have heard of this restaurant in other parts of the country and come to try it when they visit Kabul.”

Waheed said he hopes to keep his familiy tradition alive for as long as possible.

“I inherited the restaurant from my grandfather and father. We have been serving people for nearly 70 years,” he said.

The eatery is located on the second floor of a ramshackle building in an old and bustling part of a bazaar which was demolished by the British forces in the 19th century and destroyed again during fighting in the 1990s.

Waheed’s customers include MPs and government officials accompanied by armed guards for protection.

A former interior minister, Amruallah Saleh, who often travels in an armored vehicle, has been to Waheed’s restaurant twice, according to Feraidoon, one of the cooks.

“He liked it a lot and on one occasion ate twice in one day,” Feraidoon said.

Women wishing to eat rely on takeaways since there is no section for them in the restaurant — another sign of a male-dominated society.

In upmarket parts of Kabul, expensive restaurants have increased in the past 20 years, especially with the arrival of foreign troops and aid workers who brought along dishes from their countries of origin.

Abdullah Ansar, a manager for the Cafeteria, a leading restaurant in the city, said that although his menu features more than 300 foreign-style meals, local dishes were still a favorite for both Afghans and expatriates.

With more than four decades’ experience in the industry, Ansar has been host to regional and world leaders, including former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Ansar said he relies on local products, but also imports ingredients such as cheese, fish, prawns, olive oil and canned fruit from the UAE.

“Afghanistan has delicious local dishes. If peace comes, tourists will come here, and the restaurant and hotel industry will further flourish,” he said.

But like many Afghans, Ansar does not know when the fighting will end and stability will return to the country.