Offbeat

Salt & Pepper with Chef Huseyin

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Life of an expat chef in Riyadh.


At a certain point in life, we have all wondered what it’s like to live a chef’s life. Surrounded by food 24/7, enjoying the 5-star life and having the opportunity to meet and cook for the popular celebrities! But, is a chef’s life really one big dessert platter or are there other steamy, spicy courses added to this meal?

To find out, we met a Turkish chef, Chef Huseyin. He is the Chef de Cuisine of Azure restaurant, an Aegean-inspired cuisine, at Hyatt Regency. He has been living in Saudi Arabia for 10 months now

Chef Huseyin gave us a taste of his life in Saudi Arabia. Keep reading to find out the ingredients of a chef’s life:

How do you find life in Riyadh?
I like my life here. I learned a lot after I moved to Riyadh. Initially, I was new to the rules of the place and I found it really hot here, especially the water. I can’t take a shower in the morning during the summers. *laughs*

But then, I started observing and learning the way Saudis lived their life and adapted the same. Riyadh has brought me closer to my religion. I love how the stores in the malls close during prayer time; this pushes us towards prayer and doesn’t let us miss it.

Is there any Saudi celebrity whom you’d love to cook for?
I would love to cook for the king. It’s my dream. But, then I’ll be very nervous.
What would you cook for him?
Ah. He’s such a special person. I haven’t really decided what I’d cook for him, but, I think I’ll cook a beautiful Aegean meal. I’ll pick a simple dish that’ll highlight the taste of the fresh fish, using minimum spices… just like the Aegeans do. I hope he’ll like it.
Pick one: Comfort food or fancy food? Which one would you go for?
Whatever my stomach asks for. I’ll stick to healthy alternatives. Maybe a vegetable or lentil soup. It is really healthy for your body, especially if you have it for breakfast. Very beneficial.
There’s a surprise family/friend gathering at your place. What would you cook? Think fast!
I would cook chicken with cream sauce or maybe salmon… because my wife loves it and she would want to eat that.
What’s your favorite cuisine?
I have a soft corner for Aegean cuisine. I love how simple and healthy the food is. We only use salt, pepper, a little cumin and olive oil or butter to prepare the meal. This ensures that the meat isn’t overpowered by the spices. It smells and tastes so good.
Is there a Saudi meal that you love?
I love lamb ouzzi. It tastes absolutely amazing. It’s not too spicy. It’s made perfectly. The first time I eat it, I liked it very much.
Is there a Saudi or an Arab spice that you can’t live without?
I don’t normally cook with lots of spices, but, I like cumin powder.
What are your thoughts on the popular diets that people follow?
Oh, I don’t mind. No problem. Let them diet. As long as they’re eating healthy.
Are you on a diet?
No. *comical smile and bursts out laughing*
What is your advice to people when it comes to food and healthy eating?
Okay… I have a few pieces of advice to share… I personally follow them, too, and they are very helpful:

  1. Have a good lentil soup or vegetable soup for breakfast. It is beneficial for the body.
  2. Try to have 200gms of yogurt daily for a happy, healthy stomach. Yogurt will aid your digestion.
  3. Avoid things that’ll make your stomach feel bad.
  4. Use minimum spices and stick to the basics like salt and pepper to get the real flavor of food.
  5. Eat whatever your body craves for, but make sure it’s healthy.
What’s the best part of being a chef?

SET THINGS ON FIRE! Haha! I get to use the hot section. That’s my thing. I use the grill, oven, fry… set fire. It’s exciting and exhilarating.

I like using the knife, too. *Shows his scars on his hands, happily*. The chefs in the kitchen also have fun by scaring their fellow chefs with the hot pan or spatula.

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