Laura Bashraheel, [email protected]
Publication Date: 
Wed, 2010-07-21 22:02

Somaya Idrissi, a 32-year-old chef who is currently working at Jeddah’s Park Hyatt kitchen, is considered one of the first Saudi women to earn the “chef” job title.
Idrissi started working for Park Hyatt seven months ago describing being accepted to work in the kitchen as one of the defining moments in her life. She has done many jobs in the kitchen but she is part of the room service kitchen and will be transferred later to work in the only female restaurant —“Dardasha” Kitchen — in Evania Ladies Spa at the hotel.
“I developed a passion for cooking when I got married. My husband loves cooking so he taught me and encouraged me to start this career,” she said.
Although she didn’t study cooking, she taught herself by asking and searching for recipes in cookbooks. “I have a thing for desserts and sweets,” Idrissi said explaining her passion for her favorite item on the menu.
Wearing a chef’s outfit with an apron stained with tiny drops of tomato sauce but without the chef’s hat, Idrissi proudly said she is one of the first Saudi women to work as a chef in a kitchen with men. “I worked for more than three years at the International Medical Center in the patient’s room service as a pastry chef, before joining the Park Hyatt,” she said. 
“When I came into the kitchen here, I wasn’t used to big amounts; the chef encouraged me and began giving me the recipes and taught me how to do things,” she said adding that her family was “supportive” and “encouraging”.
Being a good chef in Saudi Arabia is fairly common just as Idrissi, who didn’t study cooking but she became a chef by coincidence. Despite her husband and family support, some friends and relatives discouraged her by saying “This job is only for men”. “They didn’t think I would make it but my husband kept on lifting my spirits,” she said.
In her previous job, Idrissi was faced with a challenge of working with only men where she was the only woman chef in the kitchen. That wasn’t as much of a concern as she was faced with a discouraging female supervisor. “I had to work really hard to make it in this field and prove myself,” she said.
Being in the Park Hyatt kitchen speaks for itself but Idrissi wants to develop and learn more skills in the kitchen. “I have learned a lot of new things since I joined this team. Now I know how can I deal with any food emergency,” she said.
Park Hyatt kitchen has six women working as chefs under the executive chef. Other than Idrissi, there are five other women from different nationalities around the Arab world.
Naima Ennouni, a 30-year-old Moroccan chef who has been working for Park Hyatt Dubai for five years, has moved to Jeddah recently to be part of the women chefs’ team in the kitchen. She studied cooking back in her hometown and will be the executive chef in the women’s restaurant “Dardasha”
“I will be distributing the tasks in the kitchen. Right now we are all working for room service and sometimes we help with weddings because we can go inside and check on the buffet,” she said.
In the food-service industry, it is a fact that Saudi women are still very much absent as managers of restaurants even though they have established themselves as businesswomen and owners of cafes around the city. Nevertheless, while the women chefs will be dealing with recipes and the rush of orders inside the kitchen, “Dardasha” — scheduled to open after Ramadan — will have a female manager to run the café and make sure everything is perfect.
Amna Yamani, a 23-year-old Saudi, who just graduated from Glion Institute of Higher Education in Switzerland for hospitality management, will be managing the café in Evania Spa.
Yamani is training to be the manager of “Dardasha” as her first job ever since she came back from Switzerland. She has been studying in Switzerland since the age of 12 and it is the best which is what she wanted to be a part of. 
“When I went to university in Switzerland, I realized when looking at my university or at least the top three hospitality management universities that I was the only Saudi female with this degree,” she explained. 
Yamani believes the demand in the country is really high. “Wherever I apply for a job here they always say they are trying to find a Saudi female with this degree to work,” she added.
“Having this background and degree in education with my family’s support, I feel I can contribute a lot,” Yamani said.  
Yamani enjoys speaking to people, learning about food and service and having good standards in restaurants. “When I came and applied for the job in Park Hyatt they suggested I work for ‘Dardasha’ which is female only café,” she said describing the café as having a modern take on simplicity.
Her ambition is to keep on doing what she loves which is dispensing hospitality. She described working in the Park Hyatt as an “honor” and being a manager straight after graduating is a great opportunity. “I will be learning a lot from this experience,” she added.

old inpro: 
Taxonomy upgrade extras: