Amidst Saudi Arabia’s vibrant culinary scene, a remarkable shift is taking place as sustainability and gastronomy converge to create a new era of dining experiences. As diners increasingly prioritize sustainability and culinary excellence, Saudi Arabia has emerged as a leading hub for cutting-edge, environmentally-conscious dining.
Throughout our exploration, we have had the privilege of speaking with trailblazers at the forefront of sustainable dining practices. Their dedication to culinary excellence and environmental stewardship is evident in every aspect of their work, from carefully selecting ingredients to designing menus and implementing innovative food preparation techniques, all the way to managing waste.
In this article, we embark on a journey to explore the intersection of sustainability and culinary mastery within the Kingdom. From visionary chefs to groundbreaking dining establishments, we delve into the stories and philosophies that drive Saudi Arabia’s eco-conscious dining scene.
A Zero-Waste Fine Dining Revolution
Head to tail with Yasmin Hamza and Hawazen Zahran of Indulge Thyself
In the heart of Saudi Arabia, a culinary revolution is taking place with the advent of Indulge Thyself. This innovative business, which started during Covid 19 pandemic, offers a private fine dining experience that redefines the concept of sustainable gastronomy and operates with a zero-waste approach. Saudi head chef Yasmin Hamza, her partner Hawazen Zahran and their team of talented female chefs lead the charge. Together, they embody a unique ideology and practice that consistently prioritizes waste reduction.
A deep sense of environmental responsibility inspires the concept of indulging Thyself. Chef Yasmin believes, “We are an inseparable part of nature as humans. When we recognize this connection, we can take action to preserve and protect our environment. Therefore, sustainability is vital in fine dining, a principle that Indulge Thyself holds dear.” At the core of Indulge Thyself’s philosophy is zero-waste fine dining. “This philosophy is applied to every aspect of the restaurant, from the food to the recipes. The restaurant’s concept was born out of a desire to innovate fine dining dishes while demonstrating respect for the environment and how our food is generated”, according to Yasmin and Hawazen Indulge Thyself promotes various sustainable practices and culinary methods, ensuring no waste. They source local farm-to-table produce, employ a head-to-tail cooking method, and utilize fermentation and pickling techniques. Leftover ingredients are composted and transformed into plant fertilizer to grow their fruits and vegetables.
Yamin says, “Restaurants typically waste 10 to 15% of the products they purchase, even before cooking. We strive to minimize waste and utilize every part of the ingredients we buy.”
As a dining concept, Indulge Thyself has collaborated with various organizations to promote sustainability and combat food waste. One notable collaboration was with the Food Waste Lab, a composting company based in Dubai. Through a documentary, Indulge Thyself showcased its efforts to combat food waste and highlighted trailblazing businesses in the Middle East prioritizing sustainable practices. Yasmin adds, “Indulge Thyself offers a fusion cuisine that takes diners on an international journey while honoring sustainable values. Approximately 90-95% of the ingredients are sourced locally, supporting local farmers and reducing their carbon footprint.” Indulge Thyself has strongly advocated for promoting sustainable practices through her restaurant. She has organized culinary classes for children as part of the Islamic Art Biennale, where they witnessed young aspiring chefs’ extraordinary talent and enthusiasm.
Hawazen adds, “It hasn’t been an easy road, with lots of challenges and moments of doubt, but the satisfaction and adrenaline we feel after each successful dinner make it all worth it. We curated our venue in a way that creates an intimate and unique atmosphere between our chefs and guests. The privacy our guests feel in a 10-20 seater supper club has been key in our concepts success we would say”.
Yamin says their fine dining concept, “Indulge Thyself focuses on creating a multi-sensory experience that evokes emotions and creates lasting memories. It’s not just about delicious food but about igniting all your senses and thoughts. Every detail, from the ambiance to the operations, reflects their core value of sustainability. The restaurant’s menu changes every few months, as they work exclusively with seasonal produce, ensuring the freshest and most flavorful ingredients in their signature dishes”.
In terms of what their favorite dishes on the menu are, both shared “We have a couple that stands out. One is a churo doughnut filled with fermented white cheese and dill oil. It’s a delicious dish that highlights the concept of fusion cuisine and fine dining technique. Another dish is one that marries our beautiful Saudi culture and local produce with our kitchens waste products, Almond macaroons filled with marmite which are made of surplus sourdough bread and local AlUla sweet lemon citrus custrad.”Adding, “We create the menu before buying the ingredients that way we ensure using every part of the ingredients bought for example a piece of fish, everything from, carcass, cheeks, flesh and skin would be included in the menu somehow. Another example would be eggs when we use eggs in our menu, we would then either use the eggshell as a part of the dish’s preperation or add the shells to our compost bin to return those nutrients into the soil”. Adding “As for future plans, we’re currently focused on the supper club concept, but we may consider opening a traditional restaurant if it aligns with our vision.”
If you seek a unique epicurean feast combining culinary excellence ans sustainability, look no further than Indulge Thyself. Their commitment to zero waste and dedication to delivering an extraordinary dining experience.
Culinary Artistry and Sustainability
The World of Chef Nawal AlKhalawi
In the culinary art world, Nawal AlKhalawi shines as a visionary chef who advocates for sustainable dining experiences. With a profound passion for merging flavors, textures, and colors, she has embarked on a remarkable journey to showcase the richness of local produce.
Through her pop-up concept, Asfar, nestled under AlUla’s starlit sky, Nawal has seamlessly intertwined her culinary philosophy with the breathtaking beauty of her surroundings. This exclusive interview delves into her culinary background, commitment to sustainability, and vision for shaping Saudi Arabia’s evolving culinary landscape.
Can you tell us about your culinary background and how it led to your current focus on showcasing local produce?
My culinary background started as a passion rooted in my childhood. The science of blending flavors, colors, and textures fascinated me, leading me to experiment and create unique dishes. As I grew older, I became aware of the importance of nutrition and health, particularly when I noticed unhealthy processed food in children’s lunch boxes. This drove me to educate parents and encourage healthier alternatives. Starting with an Instagram account called Food Evolution, I shared recipes and advice. My interest grew, and I began selling homemade products while working as a special education teacher. Eventually, I studied health coaching and delved into culinary arts at Cordon Bleu in London. Thus, my formal education in food began.”
Your pop-up concept, Asfar, offers a unique dining experience under AlUla’s starlit sky. Can you walk us through the inspiration behind this concept and how it ties into your culinary philosophy?
Asfar, my pop-up concept is a true reflection of my soul and values. It embraces sustainability and connects the culinary experience to nature and the environment. Growing up in an eco-conscious household, I learned the importance of minimizing waste and utilizing local produce. Asfar allows me to bring these principles to life in an extraordinary setting. People who know me strongly connect to the concept, as it embodies my essence. It’s a blessing to share this experience with others.
Sustainability is a key focus of Asfar. How do you ensure your pop-up events are eco-friendly and promote sustainable practices?
At Asfar, we prioritize sustainability in various ways. We carefully source ingredients, utilizing locally available to create our recipes. We minimize waste by reusing or repurposing cooking extras like seeds and peels, dehydrating them into powder, or using them for garnish. Any leftover organic matter is composted to return to the earth. We also strive to highlight lesser-known local farmers, encouraging support for them instead of larger factories and companies. We also prioritize reusable items and avoid disposable plastic or wasteful materials.”
How do you select the ingredients for your dishes, and what role do you think local produce plays in creating a truly unique culinary experience?
When crafting dishes for Asfar, I focus on what’s available locally. Rather than starting with a recipe and finding ingredients to fit, I take a more spontaneous approach, like a mystery box. This philosophy of utilizing sustainable produce excites me because it allows me to work with what nature provides. As a dynamic individual, I embrace change and continually evolve. Consequently, my menus change regularly, and each pop-up has a unique concept. Local produce takes center stage, offering exceptional flavors and nutritional benefits when fresh. Eating local supports the local economy and farmers and contributes to a healthier planet.
Can you give us an example of a dish that perfectly showcases the flavors and ingredients of the AlUla region and what makes it stand out?
One dish that perfectly represents the flavors and essence of the AlUla region is ‘Khafish Al Dobba.’ It is a hearty dish comprising pumpkin, fresh saj bread, and meat. This unique recipe is special in Al Ula, and its name adds a playful touch. When I tell my children ‘Khafeesh al dobba,’ they laugh, realizing that ‘dobba’ simply means pumpkin in this context. The dish stands out due to its exclusivity to AlUla and its ability to bring joy and curiosity to those who encounter it.
Your dining experiences are beautifully curated with attention to detail, from the table settings to the presentation of the dishes. Can you discuss your creative process and how you craft these experiences for your guests?
“Crafting these experiences involves a meticulous, creative process. Every element works in harmony to bring a specific theme to life. For instance, in AlUla, I was captivated by the mud color juxtaposed against the blue sky. This inspired the theme, and we incorporated sky-blue tablecloths and handcrafted plates with organic and earthy tones. Attention to detail is crucial to evoke the desired atmosphere and create a truly immersive and unforgettable dining experience.”
How do you see the culinary landscape of Saudi Arabia evolving in the coming years, and what role do you hope to play in shaping it?
“In the coming years, I envision the culinary landscape of Saudi Arabia emphasizing highlighting local cuisine and infusing innovative twists into traditional dishes. There will be a growing interest in healthier options that cater to diverse dietary preferences and intolerances. I aspire to contribute to this evolution by leveraging my expertise in molecular gastronomy and using Saudi cuisine as a base to create unique and artistic dishes. I see myself as an ambassador for Saudi cuisine, spreading its flavors and concepts globally.”
As Nawal AlKhalawi continues to innovate and inspire, her culinary creations and commitment to sustainability leave an indelible mark on the gastronomic world. She sets a remarkable example for aspiring chefs with her unwavering passion and creative flair. She cultivates a dining experience transcending mere sustenance, enchanting guests.
Finally, what advice would you give aspiring chefs looking to showcase their love for local produce and create unique dining experiences like yours?
I advise aspiring chefs to put their ideas and visions into the world proactively. Create your brand, express your desires, and attract opportunities by actively sharing your passion. Instead of waiting for opportunities to come to you, actively put your energy out there and watch as they manifest. Manifesting success requires dedication, perseverance, and a firm belief in your dreams. By showcasing your love for local produce and creating unique dining experiences, you can contribute to a more sustainable and flavorful culinary landscape.
Café Bateel: A Farm-to-Table Journey of Authentic Delights
In an age where consumers crave genuine experiences, it’s no longer enough for businesses to merely sell products—they must share captivating stories that evoke authenticity, transparency, and responsibility. One such story unfolds at Café Bateel, where the pursuit of authenticity lies at the heart of everything they do. Step into Café Bateel, and you’ll discover a culinary haven that goes to great lengths to source the most extraordinary ingredients for its alluring menu.
Each mouthwatering dish is a testament to their unwavering dedication to the art of cooking, showcasing the passion and resourcefulness they pour into acquiring the finest products. But it doesn’t stop there—Café Bateel’s commitment to authenticity permeates every aspect of their sourcing practices.
Imagine a menu that beckons you with a delightful blend of Mediterranean flavors and an Arabian twist. Behind each distinct palate, there’s a tapestry of fresh, top-notch ingredients sourced directly from local farmers. This commitment to quality drives Café Bateel to carefully handpick suppliers, from the dairy farms that provide the creamiest cheeses to the artisan bakers who craft the daily bread with unmatched freshness and flavor.
At Café Bateel, the pursuit of authenticity and the quest for superior quality converge to create an unparalleled dining experience. Every bite you take reflects their unwavering dedication to ensuring your enjoyment reaches new heights. It’s more than just a meal; it’s an invitation to indulge in the pinnacle of culinary delight—a feast meticulously crafted with love, authenticity, and unwavering commitment to sourcing the best ingredients.
Embracing the farm-to-table philosophy, Café Bateel remains steadfast in its belief in supporting local farmers and suppliers. By forging direct connections, they guarantee the ultimate in quality, freshness, and sustainability in every dish they serve. It reflects their unyielding devotion to the highest culinary standards, an ode to the artistry of the farm-to-table journey.
So, if you’re seeking an extraordinary dining experience that nourishes both body and soul, look no further than Café Bateel. Here, authenticity is not just a buzzword—it’s a way of life, a story told through the vibrant flavors and exceptional ingredients that grace your plate. Come and savor the taste of true dedication, where every ingredient is carefully selected to bring you a truly unforgettable moment at the table.