Startup of the Week: Saudi chef introduces art of Italian pizza making in the Kingdom

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Updated 14 September 2020

Startup of the Week: Saudi chef introduces art of Italian pizza making in the Kingdom

  • Italian pizzas are very different from their US counterparts

JEDDAH: To many of us, a pizza may just be a round and flattened base of dough topped with tomatoes, cheese, and other items of our choice. A true pizza lover will, however, scoff at this simple description of the classic Italian savory dish.

Those truly in love with pizza can easily tell you, without taking a bite, whether strict preparation guidelines were followed or not. Some are particular to the extent that they insist on having a pizza prepared according to the Italian standard.

Today, a variety of pizzas are available at various outlets but Italian pizzas especially are very much in demand and the Neapolitan pizza tops the chart. It appears to be so simple, but has some very strict preparation guidelines starting from the dough to the wood-fired oven.

Abdulaziz Salamah, a Saudi pizza chef who founded Pizzeria Dough, is considered a pioneer. He is one of the few pizza chefs who has learned the art of pizza making from Parma, Italy. Salamah is considered a specialist in Neapolitan pizzas and is also the first Saudi to win the world cup prize in a pizza-making competition in 2018.

In a bid to introduce Jeddah residents to the authentic taste of Italian pizzas, Salamah launched his restaurant in late 2019. The most popular items on the menu of his restaurant include the romana and Neapolitan pizzas.

“The smell of fresh burrata cheese, basil, tomato sauce, and the wood-fired oven has always inspired me as a chef,” he told Arab News. “I wanted to transform the real essence of the Italian experience to people in the Kingdom and guarantee the authentic Italian taste.”

Italian pizzas are very different from their US counterparts. They are lighter and made of Italian flour. Italian pizza dough is fermented for 24 hours and is free of oil and sugar, and its toppings contain tomato sauce and buffalo mozzarella cheese that is made from natural skimmed milk.

“An Italian pizza always has less cheese but people here are mostly in love with pizzas loaded with cheese. However, I decided to balance this thing at Pizzeria Dough. I also offer classic Italian pizza and other creative customized pizza,” Salamah added.

He has also received training from chef Samah, the main chef at Rossopomodoro restaurant in Jeddah.

“I love the wood-fired oven and the taste of the original napoletana pizza starting from the dough and tomato sauce to buffalo mozzarella cheese. Thanks to chef Samah who taught me a lot of pizza-making skills.”

Salamah has over 15 years of experience in the industry, working as a chef for 10 years with two Jeddah-based restaurants.

Salamah said he believed in exploring new avenues, adding he had overcome many challenging situations in his career with “persistence and determination.”

He said it was necessary to study one’s project keenly, assess the market requirements and equip oneself with the skills that gave you an edge over others.

“Learn from the previous mistakes and stand up for your project until you get there.”

Dubai gets a taste of kosher

Updated 18 September 2020

Dubai gets a taste of kosher

  • The Habtoor Group has partnered with Elli’s Kosher Kitchen to become the first UAE hotel operator to offer kosher meals

When Elli Kriel moved to Dubai from South Africa eight years ago, she was determined to maintain her family’s kosher Jewish diet and quickly sought out shops serving kosher products in the city.

“At the time we thought we were the only family that kept a kosher diet, but when word got out that we were a kosher family living in Dubai, many Jews who were traveling to the UAE would contact me for food,” Kriel told Arab News.

“I started sending food out from my home to help Jewish travelers and as the community started growing so, too, did the need for more kosher food.”

In 2018, a group of rabbis arrived in Dubai for an interfaith conference and the organizer called Kriel in a panic not knowing how to feed them. Once again, she cooked and prepared kosher meals for the numerous attendees.

“At the time the idea of kosher food outside the Jewish community was strange — something unknown,” said Kriel.

After the conference, word of her services spread quickly, and she received requests from hotel managers, concierges and others who needed to serve food to Jewish guests. In 2019, Elli’s Kosher Kitchen was born.

With the UAE normalizing ties with Israel, a number of hotels and restaurants across the emirate have begun preparations to introduce kosher food and beverages. The first is the Habtoor Group, which will offer kosher meals at several of its hotels, including the Hilton Dubai.

Habtoor Hospitality has partnered with Elli’s Kosher Kitchen.

“There has been great demand since the normalization process with Israel started, and we have had several requests for groups that require kosher food, as well as from tourists from Israel and other parts of the world who would like to visit the UAE now,” Fredrik Reinisch, general manager at Hilton Dubai Al Habtoor City, told Arab News.

Hotels offering kosher catering will include Hilton Dubai, V Hotel, Habtoor Palace Dubai, LXR Hotel and Resorts, Habtoor Grand Resort, Autograph Collection LLC, Metropolitan Hotel and Habtoor Polo Resort.

“Kosher food is prepared in accordance with religious laws, the laws of the Jewish religion,” said Kriel. “It has to have kosher ingredients, follow specific methods of cooking and be served in a particular way. But it also applies to the way in which you eat the food. The basic principle is not to mix any dairy or meat products.”

Kriel ensures that all meals are prepared in accordance with OU kosher certification (Orthodox Union), believed to be the most trusted form of certification globally.

Guests with specific kosher preferences will also be able to choose from tailored menus. Meals will be packaged and sealed with an OU certified stamp.

Kosher food is similar to the concept of halal food, which adheres to Islamic law and follows religious rules in production, service and consumption.