Destination KSA - Your Guide to Saudi

Destination KSA - Your Guide to Saudi

Shaping Saudi’s Gastronomic Landscape: Exclusive Interview With Chef Mayada Badr

Shaping Saudi’s Gastronomic Landscape: Exclusive Interview With Chef Mayada Badr

Chef Mayada Badr, a renowned Saudi culinary entrepreneur, has taken the reins as the CEO of the Culinary Arts Commission in the Kingdom. With an eye on domestic culinary tourism and diplomacy, Chef Mayada is ready to take Saudi cuisine to the global stage. In this interview, she shares her journey and insights into reshaping the culinary landscape in Saudi Arabia.


As someone who’s deeply immersed in Saudi cuisine, can you tell us how the culinary field reflects the cultural identity of Saudi Arabia and how it has evolved over the years?

Saudi cuisine serves as a reflection of the cultural identity of Saudi Arabia. It embodies the country’s rich history, diverse regional influences, and the close connection between food and hospitality. Traditional Saudi dishes often feature aromatic spices, slow-cooked meats, and a variety of grains, reflecting the country’s agriculture.

Over the years, Saudi cuisine has evolved to incorporate modern influences while maintaining its authentic character. The culinary field has witnessed a fusion of traditional and international flavors, as well as the integration of innovative techniques and presentation of different styles. This evolution is a testament to the openness of Saudi society to embrace new culinary experiences while preserving its cultural roots.

 

In your journey from a culinary entrepreneur to the CEO of the Culinary Arts Commission, what key experiences or moments have shaped your perspective on the Saudi culinary scene?

One of the key experiences that shaped my perspective on the Saudi culinary scene was witnessing the immense talent and creativity within the local culinary community. I had the opportunity to interact with passionate chefs, home cooks, and food enthusiasts who were dedicated to preserving and innovating Saudi cuisine.

 

Could you share some unique challenges and opportunities for promoting and elevating the culinary arts in Saudi Arabia, a region with a rich culinary heritage?

Promoting and elevating the culinary arts in Saudi Arabia comes with challenges and opportunities. One of the unique challenges is striking a balance between preserving traditional culinary heritage and encouraging culinary innovation. Saudi Arabia has a rich culinary heritage deeply rooted in tradition, and it is important to preserve these culinary traditions while also creating opportunities for culinary experimentation and creativity.

At the same time, there are significant opportunities for showcasing Saudi cuisine to the world. Saudi Arabia’s diverse regional cuisines, unique ingredients, and traditional cooking techniques provide a wealth of inspiration for culinary exploration. By promoting these elements, we can highlight the richness and depth of Saudi gastronomy to both domestic and international audiences.

 

You have mentioned the rapid development of the Saudi food industry and the emergence of young talents. How does the Culinary Arts Commission support and nurture aspiring chefs and culinary entrepreneurs?

The Culinary Arts Commission is committed to supporting and nurturing aspiring chefs and culinary entrepreneurs in Saudi. We provide educational programs such as Kawin – Culinary Arts Incubator programs to enhance culinary skills, foster creativity, and promote entrepreneurship. These programs include workshops (over 60 workshops conducted and more than 2,500 hours of consulting), mentorship opportunities, and culinary scholarships, which aim to empower young talents with the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed in the industry.

Furthermore, we collaborate with culinary institutions and industry experts to develop curriculum standards and certification programs such as the Saudi Coffee Expert program we launched last year. By providing a supportive ecosystem, we aim to encourage innovation, provide career pathways, and enable aspiring chefs and culinary entrepreneurs to thrive in the Saudi culinary scene.

 

In your work, you often interact with the older generation who cherish traditional recipes. Could you share a particular story that demonstrates the significance of preserving these culinary traditions and the impact it has on the people you work with?

One story that comes to mind is when we had the privilege of working with a Saudi chef who had inherited traditional recipes passed down through generations in his family during our work on the Sufra book. He had a deep passion for preserving these culinary traditions and was dedicated to ensuring their continuity. As he showcased the dish and shared its history, we witnessed a profound sense of nostalgia and pride. It was a powerful reminder of how culinary traditions connect people to their heritage, evoke cherished memories, and foster a sense of cultural identity. This experience reinforced the importance of preserving culinary traditions and inspired us to support further initiatives that promote the cultural significance of Saudi cuisine.

 

Could you describe a moment or achievement in your current role that has given you the most satisfaction in your ongoing journey to reshape the culinary landscape in Saudi?

One of the most satisfying moments in my ongoing journey as CEO of the Culinary Arts Commission was witnessing the successful organization of Saudi Feast Festival. This event brought together renowned chefs, culinary experts, and food enthusiasts from around the world to celebrate Saudi cuisine and showcase the talent within our culinary community.

Seeing the excitement and enthusiasm among attendees, as well as the pride and sense of accomplishment among the local chefs and culinary entrepreneurs, was truly gratifying. It reaffirmed the potential of Saudi Arabia to emerge as a culinary destination and highlighted the significant progress we have made in reshaping the culinary landscape. This achievement served as a milestone in our efforts to promote Saudi cuisine and elevate its recognition both domestically and internationally. It inspired me to continue working tirelessly to create more opportunities and platforms for culinary excellence in Saudi Arabia.

 

Could you share any specific initiatives or projects that the Culinary Arts Commission is currently working on to promote and elevate Saudi cuisine, both domestically and on the international stage?

The Culinary Arts Commission is involved in several initiatives and projects aimed at promoting and elevating Saudi cuisine.

Firstly, we are actively collaborating with culinary schools and institutions such as Le Cordon Bleu to develop training programs and certifications that enhance culinary skills and professionalism in Saudi Arabia. These programs ensure that aspiring chefs receive the necessary training to excel in the culinary field.

Secondly, we organize culinary competitions and festivals that provide a platform for local chefs and culinary enthusiasts to showcase their talents and creativity. These events not only promote culinary excellence but also attract international attention and participation. Furthermore, we are working on establishing partnerships with international culinary and cultural organizations, renowned chefs to foster knowledge exchange, promote Saudi cuisine globally, and attract culinary tourism to the country.

 

Lastly, as CEO of the Culinary Commission, what’s your vision for the future of Saudi cuisine, and how do you plan to continue showcasing its unique flavors and traditions to the world?

My vision for the future of Saudi cuisine is to position it as a global culinary powerhouse that is known for its rich traditions, diverse flavors, and innovative culinary arts. To achieve this vision, we will continue to focus on preserving and promoting traditional Saudi recipes and cooking techniques. We will support culinary innovation and experimentation, encouraging chefs to blend traditional flavors with modern culinary trends.

Additionally, we will emphasize sustainability and the use of locally sourced ingredients to showcase the uniqueness of Saudi terroir. This commitment to sustainability will not only promote healthy and environmentally conscious culinary practices but also contribute to the growth of local agricultural industries. By fostering culinary excellence, nurturing talent, and embracing culinary diplomacy, we aim to establish Saudi Arabia as a leading culinary destination and a global ambassador of gastronomic innovation and cultural heritage.


 


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