Dubai: The national cuisines of some countries have different influences that are present in Saudi cuisine, thanks to the variety of flavors and wonderful ingredients that travelers, traders and travelers have brought to the kingdom over the centuries.
The various traditional foods found throughout the country – from countries such as India, North and East Africa, South and Central Asia and the Levant – reflect these multicultural influences.
Now, Saudi chefs and the hospitality industry are again using food to help build bridges between countries and cultures. Among the organizations embracing the art of “culinary diplomacy” is the Red Sea Development Company, which is running a massive new tourism project on the kingdom’s Red Sea coast.
In line with the objectives of Saudi Arabia Vision 2030, the country’s strategy for economic diversification, the Export Development Center in Dubai aims to promote new businesses, create job opportunities, promote entrepreneurship and promote growth in the tourism, time sectors free and hospitality.
“Our focus at the moment is to bring Saudi youth into the hospitality industry,” Lars Lydwick, the company’s senior education adviser, told Arab News.
“This is a new industry for the country and previously the education of hospitality and cooking was very low in the country. It was no different than it was in Dubai 20 years ago.
The Red Sea Project is a sustainable tourism project covering an area of approximately 28,000 square kilometers along the west coast of Saudi Arabia, which includes more than 90 untouched islands. LTV says the 50 hotels and 1,300 apartments that will be built there will be offered by some of the kingdom’s best restaurants.
“We want to attract, document and promote food from all over Saudi Arabia so that it can be delivered to luxury hotels through the Red Sea Project,” he said.
LTVIck has been working in the hospitality and hospitality education industry for over three decades. He was in Dubai between 2001 and 2009, working for the Emirates Hospitality Management Academy.
He hopes the success of the industry in the UAE’s commercial capital will be reflected in the short term in Saudi Arabia and in a more faithful way to the country’s cultural sensitivity.
“In Saudi Arabia, everything is on track now,” LTV said. “We are working to achieve the same thing (as was achieved in Dubai) and much more, but in a very short period of time.
In line with the government’s efforts towards Saudiization, the company is developing the hospitality industry as a desirable career option for Saudi youth. To this end, UK education officials have implemented a number of initiatives, including funding for the Dubai Teacher Training Center trainers, who will eventually fulfill key roles in this field.
“We focus on the credibility of promoting tourism and hospitality through food in the country, and through proposal and education, young Saudis can proudly present their history and past through culinary experience,” Lydwick said.
The consensus is that simply copying restaurants and cuisines found in cities around the world will not help transform Saudi Arabia into a unique cuisine. Focusing on promoting the arts and tastes of Saudi cuisine is a clear priority.
Lots of traditional local dishes spread all over the country – lentils made with rice, meat, vegetables and spices, and favorite Arabic rabbit with minced wheat, meat and spices – flavors, ingredients and cooking techniques. It varies greatly from region to region.
The Red Sea city of Jeddah has always attracted regional and international travelers, serving dishes rich in Persian, Oriental, Turkish, Moorish, Central and South Asian influences.
In Hejaz, for example, the influences of foods known as bokari rice, mantou (slices stuffed with beef and onions), shish baraq (slices of meat cooked in milk husk) and qibli rice are found in the Middle East. In Asia, the origin of the popular vegetable-based shellfish lies in North Africa and the Levant.
Meanwhile, in the center of the Nyde Plateau of the Kingdom, heavy dishes like soups, stews and sauces in local cuisine are best suited for the region’s cold climate.
In March, the Dubai Food Marketing Center (DRSTC) appointed Lawrence Azadorian as Culinary Director, working with Saudi chefs to create unique dining options for regional and international visitors to enjoy, promoting local favorites.
“One of our tasks is social development,” he told Arab News. “As a group, how do we ensure that the Red Sea has a sense of place?
“One of the ways we want to do this is by creating the necessary programs to incubate and expedite chefs living in Saudi Arabia.
As the state’s new tourism, leisure and hospitality industries begin to develop franchises that take into account local customs and the environment, the Dubai Export Development Center is at the center of the sustainability you expect to achieve.
“We are a refreshing tourist destination,” Asdorian said. “We have a deep interest in the environment and the integration of the communities in which we build our projects.
“Our goal is to ensure a strong balance between internationally experienced cuisine and the way we integrate Saudi Arabia’s cultural and culinary heritage throughout the guest experience journey.”
To this end, DRSTC is developing partnerships with companies across the country that have been established to preserve and promote Saudi cuisine.
Among those who have welcomed the mission of the Driving Center in Dubai to introduce the country’s cuisine traditions to the world is Mo Anani, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Owner of the Stylish Restaurant and Cosmopolitan Lounge Sifti in Riyadh.
Although he was an engineer by training, Annan said his first love was cooking, a skill he acquired by helping his mother prepare food at the family home in Geeta at a young age.
After completing her studies in the United States, Inani became a sauce cook at the Michelin-starred Saison restaurant in San Francisco, where she learned to make sushi, then at major restaurants such as Nobu and Moremoto.
Thanks to his background in Japanese cuisine, Inani has made some innovative turns regarding regular and local Red Sea fish, and Arab News has learned that he is in discussions for collaboration with the Scientific and Technical Research Center.
“Food has always united us,” Rania Al Mulla, Saudi founder, co-founder and president of ZADK, the non-profit culinary academy in Al Ghubr in the Eastern Province, told Arab News.
The academy was founded in 2018, three years after Mola published his cookbook Spoon from Home. Its mission to nurture the rich culinary traditions of Saudi Arabia by empowering local chefs is similar to that of the DRSTC, with which it has a partnership.
“I created Zadak because I saw that there was no academy in Saudi Arabia to learn about our cultural cuisine,” Mola said. Most of our restaurants are in foreign hands. I introduced ZADK because I wanted to be sustainable and have a greater impact on society.
He said the academy was looking for ways to develop its partnership with the Dubai Export Development Center by training the next generation of Saudi chefs.
“I expect their students to study at our academy,” Mola said.
In doing so, ZADEC, the Academy of Culinary Arts, has a special partnership agreement with Switzerland, which aims to improve the Saudi gastronomy scene and ensure that it meets international standards.
“Our mission is to create the best culinary school in Saudi Arabia and make it a platform for social change, educating our cuisine to help students learn international cuisine and Saudi cuisine,” Mola said.
“We aim to allow our students to travel the world with Saudi food and traditions.”
The Center for Science and Technology Research and Studies aims at this kind of culinary diplomacy, so that visitors to Saudi Arabia can enjoy the end of the Red Sea Project by 2030.