By Javeria Ilyas
A Jack in the Kitchen.
Early in his career, Chef Fouad AlNassar has already won two bronze medals at the Foodex Saudi Culinaire Salon competition. Harboring a love for fish markets and far flung recipes, he sits with contributor, Javeria Ilyas to share what goes through the mind of a millennial chef aspiring to build an eponymous culinary brand.
Where does your culinary journey begin?
My love for the kitchen and cooking grew because of my mom; I loved helping her in the kitchen but she never thought I’d end up being a chef. Visits to the local fish market since childhood and experimenting with different recipes reflected my interest, the kitchen. You can say my inspiration comes from a combination of childhood memories, and a taste of home.
Becoming a chef wasn’t planned though, it was more like an accident. I went to Los Angeles to get my bachelor’s degree in architecture. However, destiny brought me back here in Jeddah with a lot of questions in my mind about what I really love. And so, I started my first job in a casual dining restaurant without my family knowing.
I joined Artistic Food Lab where I met Chef Hani Zain, who not only trained me but believed in a Saudi who loved being in the kitchen. I joined his team for different trainings and competitions, which led to great opportunities such as working at the Ritz-Carlton in Jeddah.
What made you decide to start your own brand? What were the challenges?
I have always dreamt of having my own restaurant or something related to food. After completing a course in Japanese sushi during my third month with the Ritz-Carlton Jeddah, I wanted to venture out on my own.
And so I started Krabload in March 2017, going from one event to another. This wouldn’t have been possible without my team who stood with me.
I am now in the process of building my own brand that is ‘By Fouad Nassar’, it has different branches and ‘Selections’ is one of them, offering unique products from different parts of the kingdom. This brand will guide local brands and the start-up businesses of food and beverage. It will also support catering and private events or parties.
What’s your favorite part when in the kitchen?
The energetic vibe and busy atmosphere of the kitchen. Flames on the stove, heat in the kitchen, the banging of the pans and oh-so-soothing sounds of shouting orders. Sharing my experience with the world on a plate makes me happy.
Which cuisine would you like to introduce In KSA?
Its own cuisine, being a Saudi chef it’s my responsibility and now my mission to revive the cuisines of other regions. And not just that, I want to introduce Saudi Arabian cuisine to the world. It is a rich cuisine with its own legacy, I hope the world is ready for it.
How important is education in a culinary career?
Education is always a plus, but I think not having a degree shouldn’t limit you or stop you. If you are passionate about something, you’ll definitely find your way.
There are many good and famous chefs who made their way without having a culinary degree. You don’t really have to follow the basic system of going to school, getting a degree, and then start your career.
What is an advice you wish you’ve heard at the start of your career?
Practice, it requires a lot of hard work and practice. We as chefs wash, we cut, we cook, we do business, and we do everything. I also washed dishes at some point, some days; I’d be on duty for more than 15 hours and jump back in my kitchen to prepare for 100 people the night after. At times it gets so busy, ironically you forget to even eat so you have to be patient and try to do better, the more you do it the better you get, just keep practicing. Involve emotions in your food and believe in team work, the kitchen is all about team work. If you really love cooking don’t give up, ask for help, it is okay to ask for help.