Aspiring Saudi chefs following dreams at Paris’ Le Cordon Bleu

Aspiring Saudi chefs following dreams at Paris’ Le Cordon Bleu
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“I never attempted to make croissants. Now I feel more confident and capable of doing anything, any dish, any dessert,” Khulood Almukrain says. (Supplied)
Aspiring Saudi chefs following dreams at Paris’ Le Cordon Bleu
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Khulood Almukrain’s simsimiya inspired tart, with pistachio and rose water. (Supplied)
Aspiring Saudi chefs following dreams at Paris’ Le Cordon Bleu
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Blanquette de Veau à l’ancienne, légumes du potager. A traditional French dish, made with lamb. Ghadeer added cardamom and coriander seeds to the sauce, to add oriental flavors. (Supplied)
Aspiring Saudi chefs following dreams at Paris’ Le Cordon Bleu
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Moon crescent shaped tart, inspired by Ramadan and Saudi flavors: Saudi coffee, date with cinnamon and caramelized pecan. (Supplied)
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Updated 29 March 2024
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Aspiring Saudi chefs following dreams at Paris’ Le Cordon Bleu

Aspiring Saudi chefs following dreams at Paris’ Le Cordon Bleu
  • MISK Foundation’s Generation 2030 program helps Saudi students find places at schools in France

DUBAI: Two students from Saudi Arabia are following their dreams to become chefs at Le Cordon Bleu, the renowned French culinary and hospitality institution in Paris.

In an interview with Arab News en Francais recently, Ghadeer Ibn Khamis and Khulood Almukrain said they were grateful to the government for providing them the opportunity to study at the prestigious institution.

“I relocated with my husband to France and decided to take my passion for cooking to the next level,” said Ibn Khamis.

Once in the city of art, culture and gastronomy, Ibn Khamis opted for the Cordon Bleu diploma which provides specialization in cuisine and pastry.




Ghadeer Ibn Khamis in class photo. (Supplied)

“I wanted to shift away from the fast-paced environment of doing business in Riyadh, to focus on a field I love,” added Ibn Khamis.

The two were provided full-time scholarships by Generation 2030, backed by MISK. Generation 2030’s objective is to empower young people in various fields, enhance Franco-Saudi relations in arts, culture and fashion, as well as ensure an exchange of knowledge and talented students.

Known for its vibrant hospitality scene, Saudi Arabia has been attracting fine dining restaurants over the past decade. This is a part of the Vision 2030 plan to grow the tourism industry. Culinary schools are a part of the conversation, and Le Cordon Bleu is expected to open in Riyadh in 2024/2025.

Almukrain said: “I used to work at a bank and I was happy in my role. I applied to Le Cordon Bleu program after watching (the movie) ‘Julie & Julia.’ In a couple of days, I made the decision to enroll. It was nerve-wracking, but I feel I made the right decision.”

Founded in Paris in 1895, Le Cordon Bleu is a large network of culinary and hospitality schools with more than 35 institutes in 20 countries. It has 20,000 students of over 100 nationalities graduating every year with certificates, diplomas, as well as bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Almukrain added: “In pastry, there are many things I never imagined I would be able to do, I never attempted to make croissants. At Le Cordon Bleu, they put you under pressure, a challenge, where you have to do something you initially feel you won’t be able to do. Now I feel more confident and capable of doing anything, any dish, any dessert.”

The two students highlight that French cuisine is about technique and relies on seasonality, good quality products, and a balance of flavors. Blending Saudi Arabia’s flavors with French technique is an attempt to combine innovation and heritage, bridging cultures and reconciling tastes and preferences.

Ibn Khamis said: “French cuisine relies on veal meat, like Blanquette de veau which is also the case in Saudi Arabia … In adapting French cuisine to the Saudi taste, I don’t change the dish itself, I incorporate indirect changes. It is not easy, but it is doable.”

For her “make your own tart” exam, Almukrain brought Arabic flavors to the production.

“The tart was inspired by the simsimiya. Applying the techniques of cream and dough-making, coulis, and crust preparation, my idea was to deliver a tart with pistachio, simsimiya and rose water, surrounded by choux pastry, filled with creme patissiere, pistachio praline and tahini,” said Almukrain.

Ibn Khamis said Le Cordon Bleu is a place for learning, commitment and discipline.

“I used to be late, and not finish my plates on time … Then I started delivering my plates among the first in my class. The best part about my experience is seeing progress over time, till I reached a point where the chef does not comment on the plating and the presentation of my dish.”

For Almukrain, Le Cordon Bleu allowed her to meet people from different cultures and learn about their dishes.

“It is my first time travelling and living on my own, which is an experience by itself. The exposure, the amount of information I received, I am happy to learn and implement. You exceed your own expectations and your self-confidence increases,” said Almukrain.

“French cuisine is the most technical cuisine. When you go to any other cuisine, having a French cuisine and techniques background will help you a lot,” she added.

Students receive the Grand Diplome upon completion of the culinary program, followed by a second diploma in restaurant management. The objective is to help students develop their business idea, and learn about budgeting, marketing, financing and designing menus.

“There is a lot more to learn, an infinite room for creativity, and a sense of achievement with the positive feedback and support of family and friends,” added Ibn Khamis.

Wearing the Le Cordon Bleu chef’s hat is the upcoming milestone before carrying the French experience back to Riyadh, where the two are looking to head into food consultancy and restaurant management.


25 arrested for violating Hajj regulations

25 arrested for violating Hajj regulations
Updated 4 sec ago
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25 arrested for violating Hajj regulations

25 arrested for violating Hajj regulations
  • Offenders apprehended at entrances to Makkah

ARAFAT: The Saudi Ministry of Interior has said that Hajj security forces have apprehended 25 individuals at the entrances to Makkah for violating Hajj regulations and instructions, including performing rituals without a permit. The individuals include seven expatriates and 18 citizens, who were transporting 103 violators.
The seasonal administrative committees of the General Directorate of Passports issued 24 administrative decisions against the offenders. These resulted in a prison sentence of 15 days for each transporter; a financial fine of SR10,000 ($2,666) for each violator transported; public shaming; the deportation of expatriate transporters with a ban on re-entry into the Kingdom for a legally specified period after serving the sentence; and the confiscation of two vehicles used in transportation.
The ministry urged all citizens and expatriates to abide by and comply with Hajj regulations and instructions to ensure that pilgrims can perform their rituals in security, safety and comfort.


Ukraine peace process will need compromise, says Saudi foreign minister

Ukraine peace process will need compromise, says Saudi foreign minister
Updated 8 min 10 sec ago
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Ukraine peace process will need compromise, says Saudi foreign minister

Ukraine peace process will need compromise, says Saudi foreign minister
  • Prince Faisal was speaking at a conference in Switzerland aimed at engineering a peace between Russia and Ukraine

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said on Saturday that any credible peace talks on the war in Ukraine will need Russia’s participation and that it would involve “difficult compromise.”

Prince Faisal was speaking at a conference in Switzerland aimed at engineering a peace between Russia and Ukraine and he added that Saudi Arabia was committed to helping to bring an end to the conflict.

“We believe it is important that the international community encourage any step toward serious negotiations which will require difficult compromise as part of a road map that leads to peace,” the prince said.

The Saudi minister also stressed that any process leading to peace in Ukraine would need Russian participation.


King Salman, crown prince exchange Eid Al-Adha cables with leaders of Islamic countries

King Salman, crown prince exchange Eid Al-Adha cables with leaders of Islamic countries
Updated 9 min 6 sec ago
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King Salman, crown prince exchange Eid Al-Adha cables with leaders of Islamic countries

King Salman, crown prince exchange Eid Al-Adha cables with leaders of Islamic countries

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received cables of congratulations from leaders of Islamic countries on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha on Saturday, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The king and crown prince sent messages of thanks to the leaders for their congratulatory cables.

Hajj pilgrims arrived in Arafat early Saturday morning, the ninth day of Dul Hijjah, and attended the annual Hajj sermon at Namirah Mosque.


Arafat sermon translated into 37 international languages

Arafat sermon translated into 37 international languages
Updated 15 June 2024
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Arafat sermon translated into 37 international languages

Arafat sermon translated into 37 international languages

ARAFAT: The General Authority for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque translated the Arafat Day sermon on Saturday into 37 international languages, including live translation into 20 and non-simultaneous translation into 17 further languages.

This allowed Muslims to follow the sermon through the Al-Haramain platform, the authority’s YouTube channel, the Nusuk platform, and FM radio frequencies in the Arafat region.

The Arafat Sermon Translation Project, which is spearheaded by the Saudi leadership, aims to showcase Islam, enhancing its values and providing pilgrims and Muslims all over the world with the best service.


Hajj pilgrims arrive in Arafat, attend annual sermon

Hajj pilgrims arrive in Arafat, attend annual sermon
Updated 15 June 2024
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Hajj pilgrims arrive in Arafat, attend annual sermon

Hajj pilgrims arrive in Arafat, attend annual sermon
  • Pilgrims say they wish time could pause so they could continue praying on the most special day of Hajj
  • The Hajj sermon highlights that Shariah mandates 'justice and noble ethics' for all Muslims in the world

ARAFAT: Amid strict security and health measures, this year’s Hajj pilgrims arrived in Arafat early Saturday morning, the ninth day of Dul Hijjah, and attended the annual Hajj sermon at Namirah Mosque.

As the sun rose, pilgrims camping in the tent city of Mina performed dawn prayers, then began their journey to Arafat, where Prophet Muhammad gave his final sermon more than 144 decades ago. On Saturday, one could hear nothing louder than the crowd chanting supplications.

Ansarul-Haq Rasheed, a 63-year-old Indonesian pilgrim, expressed a heartfelt desire to pray to Allah for as long as possible.

“I wish time could pause so I could continue praying to Allah with all my heart,” he told Arab News. “These moments are unforgettable. I want to lay bare all my emotions to my creator, who knows everything. I seek His blessings for my needs in this life and the hereafter.”

 

 

Reflecting on the pilgrimage experience, he expressed gratitude for the services provided to pilgrims. He compared it with stories he had been told of his late father’s Hajj, some 45 years ago. “My mother shared the hardships my father faced during Hajj; I wish he could see how much more comfortable Hajj has become,” Rasheed said. 

Meanwhile, 49-year-old Khadija Yakoubi, a Moroccan pilgrim, anticipated a transformative experience from his pilgrimage.

“When all sins are forgiven, life inevitably changes for the better, leading to a renewed enjoyment. This feeling motivates pilgrims to continue doing good throughout their lives,” Yakoubi said, adding that the services pilgrims have received at the holy sites have been “exemplary.”

The Day of Arafat is the most important part of the Hajj — one of Islam’s five pillars; without it, a pilgrimage is not valid. Pilgrims typically combine and shorten the Dhuhr and Asr prayers before staying in Arafat until sunset. They then move on to Muzdalifah before returning to their tents in Mina.

Sheikh Maher bin Hamad Al-Muaiqly, one of the imams of the Grand Mosque, who delivered this year’s sermon, described Hajj as a “sincere act of worship for Allah.”

He urged pilgrims to seize “the great blessings” during their time in Arafat, reminding them that “in this honorable place and virtuous time, the Almighty multiplies his rewards” for their good deeds and forgives their sins.

In his sermon, Al-Muaiqly emphasized that Islam is a religion of peace and that Shariah “mandates justice, noble ethics, and kindness to parents, along with the importance of maintaining family ties, truthfulness in speech, and safeguarding rights to ensure they are rightfully upheld. It also emphasizes respect for contracts and encourages obedience to rightful authorities.”

He added that Shariah also emphasizes the obligation to obey the five central religious laws: safeguarding religion, and protecting the soul, the mind, one’s possessions, and one’s dignity — all important principles in Islamic jurisprudence and ethics, and, he said, guiding principles for the well-being and growth of individuals and society.

“Indeed, Shariah considers any transgression against these basics a crime deserving punishment. Furthermore, safeguarding these essentials is a path to entering paradise and attaining Allah’s satisfaction. It also serves as a key to stability, happiness, progress, and advancement in this world,” the imam said.