JEDDAH: “I found my passion in chocolate, although it is not an easy field,” Saudi pastry chef and chocolatier Rida Al-Amri told Arab News. “It has lots of challenges, but this is how you become creative.”
Al-Amri has more than 13 years experience in the world of confectionery. Over his career, he has worked in many of Saudi Arabia’s top hotels, including Rosewood, Assila Rocco Forte, and Ritz Carlton.
He was speaking to Arab News earlier this week at Salon du Chocolat — a yearly trade fair for the chocolate industry supported by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs — which was held in the Kingdom for the first time this year at Jeddah Super Dome.
With numerous chocolate-related workshops, exhibitions, and discussions, the event offered chocolatiers like Al-Amri an excellent forum at which to display their artistic talents; there were many extravagant creations on show made from chocolate and dough.
“I decided to pursue a career in pastry due to my love for sweets. I have always wanted to raise the culinary standards in my country and represent my nation, and this is my first time taking part in such an event. It is a chance for me to practice what I love aside from my main job,” he said. “It gives chocolatiers a space to show their skills and technique.”
One of the exhibitions was inspired by the traditional female clothing of the Arabian Gulf, with eight chocolate-covered abayas created by chefs from around the world, including Al-Amri, whose design was covered in leaves and flowers.
“It took me 20 hours to make the chocolate pieces I used to decorate my abaya. I used three kilograms of chocolate to make the chocolate dough for my recipe for this project,” Al-Amri said, adding that the event had inspired him to consider offering chocolate-art workshops in the near future.
The Chocolate Abaya Show aimed to help people and participants explore chocolate-making and -decorating techniques. Some were handmade, while others used colorful and creative molding methods.
The event also included chocolate and date workshops, with top pastry chefs providing visitors the chance to learn how to make indulgent treats.
Chef Yasser Jad, president of the Saudi Arabian Chefs Association, told Arab News that although this event is originally French and focuses on chocolate, it was important that dates were highlighted as a major dessert ingredient as they are one of the country’s most important natural resources and are an ideal partner for chocolate.
“This year, I infused arikah — a Saudi dish particularly made in winter. I created a recipe using chestnut instead of wheat and coated it with dark and white chocolate. It was really good; this was an idea that came to me during Salon du Chocolat.”
He added that Salon du Chocolat being hosted by the Kingdom is a great opportunity for Saudi talents.
“I can see a lot of young Saudi men and women who are very excited to take part in this international chocolate event,” he said. “The beauty of chocolate requires a sense of elegance.”