x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Cooking up a career in the UAE

Too few Emiratis consider becoming a chef as an appropriate vocation.

Too many cooks may spoil the broth, but what happens when there are not enough chefs? Well, according to Ali Ebdowa, that’s the case when it comes to Emiratis in the food business – and the nation is the poorer for it.

“People don’t know about local cuisine because when visitors come here, they get taken to Lebanese restaurants simply because we don’t have nice Emirati restaurants,” he said this week.

Speaking at the Dubai World Hospitality Championship, Mr Ebdowa, the executive chef at the Emirates Palace’s Emirati restaurant, told The National there was a sense of “shame” attached to working in a kitchen.

This is something he is keen to overturn by opening a cooking school to encourage more Emirati men and women to consider his profession.

Mr Ebdowa pointed out that the pay and conditions for chefs were good, yet hotels and restaurants were struggling to hire Emiratis, who tended to prefer careers in government and the military.

He might also have noted that cooking can be a gateway to an international career, and even the chance of becoming a celebrity. Almost certainly, an Emirati celebrity chef would be more in the mould of the genial Beirut-based Chef Ramzi than the foul-mouthed Gordon Ramsay.