Saudi Islamic affairs minister inaugurates mosques

Saudi Islamic affairs minister inaugurates mosques
Saudi Islamic affairs minister inaugurates mosques

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - ALKHOBAR: Celebrated American chef Jerome Grant ventured to Dhahran on Thursday to teach Saudi culinary students about a dish close to his heart. As a culinary diplomat, Grant visited ZADK Culinary Academy to break bread, learn about Saudi cuisine, and provide a bit of his homeland on a plate.
Grant was joined on the visit by James Sindle, US consul-general in Dhahran.
“It’s my first visit to Saudi. The food has been great, super tasty, great flavors, but also, there’s some similarities here and there, so it always felt welcoming and inviting,” Grant told Arab News.
“I think food is a great tool that connects us as people and human beings. We could all be all different walks of life, different cultures, different religions, but the connection at our dinner table in our food, I believe, is what helps with a lot of the communication.”
Before owning his current BBQ joint, Grant led the revolution in museum dining, landing him three James Beard nominations. Grant uses recipes that highlight the richness of his multi-cultural heritage — he is half Filipino, half Jamaican, and resides in the US — and each part of his story is steeped in playful flavor. In 2019, he was named one of the “16 Black chefs changing food in America” by the New York Times and was nominated that same year for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic and Best American Cookbook. In 2017, his restaurant was on the James Beard Foundation’s list of Best New Restaurants.
Sindle was elated to swap his suit jacket and tie for a ZADK apron and was immediately put on tomato-peeling duty.
“It was absolutely lovely. It was nice to see the exchange between a US food diplomat and the students learning the culinary arts and having an opportunity to share a little bit about American culinary tradition. It’s not just about hamburgers and hotdogs,” Sindle said with a laugh.
The students at ZADK were curious, attentive, passionate and overjoyed at cooking with Grant. At the end of the cooking demonstration, each took a spoon and scraped a bite. Some students compared the creamy grits to the popular milky Hijazi dish, saleeg. Grant stood around answering questions and taking selfies with the budding chefs.
“As a graduate ... from ZADK, I had the opportunity to explore the chef life and explore the back of the house and now I’m exploring the opportunity to be in front of the house,” Saudi chef Esmaeel Bukhamseen told Arab News.
“It was honestly an amazing thing. The students had good questions. I’m very proud of them. They’re asking the right questions to the chef. The chef himself was impressed with their knowledge and was learning a lot of things from the students and the students were learning from him. I honestly encourage that we have such visits more often,” he continued.
“(It was) just a great honor for me to sit with such personalities and to showcase what it is being a Saudi chef.”
Bukhamseen is the epitome of the ZADK success story. First enrolled as a student, then hired to work with the team overseeing the new batch of students, he has seen both sides of the culinary experience and empathizes with the mission that Rania Moualla, founder of ZADK, has been amplifying.
Moualla, who was present during the visit, walked the US envoy through her journey. As the founder of the first non-profit culinary academy to offer a Saudi-centric curriculum, ZADK — whose name derives from the Arabic word “zad,” which alludes to Arab generosity and food for travel — combines a revolutionary concept with a humble mission. In just five years, it has established itself as an important part of the culinary sector in the region.
ZADK’s mission was to be situated strategically at their flagship location, further turning the Eastern Province into a culinary and cultural hub. About 50 percent of the academy’s students are from the area and the rest come from other parts of the Kingdom. Everyone at ZADK is actively exploring Saudi cuisine — merging medleys of traditional Saudi flavors from their families and adding their own innovative twists — to help feed the community and the world at large.
“Our best memories always are about the food,” Moualla told Arab News. “When we’re sharing a meal with somebody we love, actually it’s building memories, and we are what we are now because of those memories.”

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