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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - JEDDAH: In a world where culinary experiences are as diverse as the cultures they hail from, Hisham Nazer has emerged as a passionate enthusiast of one of the most beloved and diverse food items — cheese.
Within the realm of Saudi Arabia’s cheese enthusiasts, he has carved out an exceptional space for himself.
From an accidental encounter to becoming a cheese connoisseur and entrepreneur, Nazer has a story that brims with flavors, experiences, and a relentless pursuit of culinary innovation.
His love affair with cheese had an unlikely start during his days at the University of California in Los Angeles. It began with a chance encounter with a vibrant, aged mimolette cheese at a whole foods store. Its captivating orange hue and its complex, caramel-like flavor were enough to attract him.
Nazer told Arab News: “It was the first time I realized that something as simple as milk could be transformed into a myriad of flavors, just with some time and care.”
It was a revelation and an awakening to boundless possibilities for Nazer. The world of cheese, with its diverse textures and flavors, had captured his heart.
His fascination led him to explore the tools that enhance the experience. He delved into the art of cheese preparation, from using specialized knives for different textures to discovering unique gadgets like the girolle, a cheese carving tool.
He said: “Over time I’ve collected a variety of cheese tools, each with its unique purpose and story. I love sharing tips and tricks on how to use these tools in my workshops and on social media, making the art of enjoying cheese accessible and fun for everyone.”
What started as a casual fascination blossomed into a profound passion. Nazer’s cheese journey moved from merely tasting to understanding the craft of cheesemaking. The birth of his Instagram account, “Hisham is Board,” was a turning point.
He said: “It was never intended to be a serious venture, but more of a creative outlet for me.”
It soon became a platform to educate and inspire fellow cheese enthusiasts in the Kingdom. This in turn led to an evolution toward educational content, including videos in Arabic to explain different cheese varieties.
Driven by the community’s enthusiasm, Nazer ventured into cheese workshops.
He added: “This curiosity from others fueled my desire to learn more and share my knowledge.”
The workshops became a canvas for sharing his love of cheeses, teaching others about various types and conducting tasting and pairing sessions.
While his initial cheese journey was self-motivated, Nazer recognized the importance of formal education to deepen his understanding and share knowledge. He enrolled in a certificate program in restaurant revenue management from Cornell University, gaining insights into the food industry’s economics. However, it was his accreditation with the Academy of Cheese in the UK that truly enriched his knowledge.
He said: “This program was an eye-opener, offering a wealth of information regarding the various techniques involved in cheesemaking and the art of categorizing the extensive variety of cheeses.”
He now gives workshops that are a blend of education and hands-on experience. He imparts knowledge about cheese varieties, categorizing them based on milk type and texture.
Those attending have the opportunity to sample a variety of cheeses and explore pairings with accompaniments like jams and honey.
In cheeseboard-making sessions, attendees learn the art of making inviting cheeseboards, from selecting knives to arranging cheeses aesthetically. These workshops empower participants to create their own beautiful and palate-pleasing cheeseboards.
However, Nazer’s culinary journey extends beyond the product. As the former managing director of FMT Entertainment, he oversaw fine-dining pop-up restaurants during Riyadh Season, gaining experiences that helped to lay the foundation for his hospitality-consulting Infuse Advisory.
The Infuse Advisory venture aims to fill gaps in the Saudi food, beverage and hospitality market, offering tailored solutions that merge international standards with a deep understanding of local nuances.
He said: “Infuse Advisory, although a new venture having been operational for just 10 months, strives to bridge the aforementioned gaps by offering a blend of local understanding and international standards.”
Nazer collaborated with more than 50 restaurants that ventured into the Saudi market with their pop-up endeavors.
He said: “It provided me with rich experiences and helped in broadening my exposure to various culinary landscapes.”
As the CEO of Infuse Advisory, Nazer is positioning the company as a pivotal force in elevating and reshaping the industry.
He added: “My goal is to set new benchmarks of excellence and innovation, contributing to a prosperous and globally recognized F&B scene in Saudi Arabia.”
Infuse Advisory has now embarked on a collaboration with a government entity, focusing on celebrating and promoting Saudi cultural and heritage cuisine. While specific details are confidential, the project aims to preserve and elevate Saudi culinary traditions while contributing to diversification in the Saudi F&B sector. The company is also exploring other projects with government bodies.
Nazer added: “I am in the process of conceptualizing something thrilling in the cheese domain. Without revealing too much, I believe this initiative will resonate well with cheese aficionados and novices alike. It’s a venture that melds my passion for cheese with the aim of creating a unique platform for cheese appreciation and education.”
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