33-year-old passionate mother and chef Amal Fakeih gleefully shares that cooking and food have always been a massive part of her life. She has fond memories of cooking with her grandmother, mother, and siblings and recollects, “One of my fondest childhood memories is going to a teppanyaki-style restaurant with my mother, it was our special date night outing, and I just loved watching the chef cook and remember being so mesmerized by the techniques and skills he had, and that’s something I like to see with my kids.”
Upon being asked about how she decided on choosing the culinary field, she said, “I was never really good at school, and once I decided to go to Le Cordon Bleu in London, even though I was only 18 at the time, Alhamdulillah I was one of the four from twenty that graduated with the grand diplome (diploma) in 2006”.
Chef Amal recalls, “When I came back to Saudi, the culinary field wasn’t yet known for Saudi female chefs in Jeddah, so I continued my education in learning different cuisines in the Art Institute of Washington in the United States.” She fell in love with being a Chef and everything that came with it. She was enamored by how culinary art teaches discipline, time management, creativity, and organization. The more she explored the field, the more she discovered why she loves it.
In 2012 Amal and her family opened the Young Chefs Academy. For seven years, she enjoyed the experience of educating young minds about the culinary profession while teaching them the joy and value of cooking.
“From there, I decided I wanted to know about management, so I continued my education and went back to the Le Cordon Bleu London in 2017 and did the culinary arts management diploma, and that’s when we decided to open up Extension Seventeen.”
Extension Seventeen (Ext.Seventeen) is Chef Amal’s masterstroke. The restaurant serves delectable breakfast and brunch with a homey and comforting ambiance that feels like a warm hug with a side of a runny yolk. The menu consists of simple good food that infuses Saudi flavors with a french twist using Chef Amal techniques at school. “So Ext.Seventeen is the number of the telephone extension at my parent’s house living room. It’s where all our gatherings happen, whether it’s to eat, make important decisions, laugh or cry, fight or hug. It’s the core of our home. And we all call that room the number 17, so that’s how the name of the restaurant came to be”
What makes Chef Amal the proudest for the state of the culinary world in the Kingdom is how much it has progressed in a matter of years, “I love how the field of culinary arts is receiving the respect it deserves. Finally, I can see Saudis accepting it as a career proudly as before it was unfortunately looked at as something to be ashamed of. It makes me so happy to see it flourishing through determined chefs who never quit and show the love for this field. And that’s how it started to evolve by the support for each other and motivation that being in the culinary world is an absolute joy!”