Meet Top Chef Sama Jaad

Meet Top Chef Sama Jaad

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Following a gripping fourth-series finale and in a fantastic feat for the Kingdom, Jaad fought off competition from 15 other culinary talents to clinch the coveted top spot on MBC’s popular show, becoming the first female Saudi contender to do so.

Still in celebratory mood, Jaad told HN how she coped with the pressure of cooking for the three

judges and her plans to take Saudi cuisine to the world.

How would you describe the Top Chef experience?

My Top Chef journey was challenging and difficult, but also gave me an opportunity to learn and discover plenty of new things. It was definitely one of the most important learning experiences I’ve gone through. Taking part is a great way for any chef or talent from the region to gain international recognition since the program is a reference in the industry.

When did you first discover your love for cooking?

Cooking has long been a real passion of mine; I can remember experimenting in the kitchen as a girl aged just nine, although I only made the move into professional cooking two years ago. I

decided to take around 15 short courses to improve my knowledge, which provided me with valuable experience. I also worked on menus for restaurants and created special dishes for them. My techniques were simple, yet still challenging to implement.

How did you deal with the pressure that Top Chef puts on participants?

I’m a great believer in focusing on myself and my own achievements, so I worked on identifying and utilizing my personal strengths, while also trying to improve my weaknesses. This approach proved to be invaluable on the show; it helped me to overcome the challenges I faced and

put the competitive nature of the tasks to one side, enabling me to focus on what I could perfect. That said, being away from my kids for a long time was very hard and definitely the most difficult aspect of the show to deal with.

What was the most useful advice that the judges gave you?

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I’ll always remember Chef Bobby repeating: “Keep it simple and silly.” I think these are excellent words of wisdom! Chef Maroun used to say: “There’s nothing impossible except what we make impossible.” The best advice I heard from Chef Mona was: “Be yourself and reflect your personality in your dish.”

What laugh-out-loud memory have you taken away from Top Chef?

Definitely the fifth episode, when I had to deal with animals. To be honest, I’m extremely afraid of animals and this was the first time I had to get close to them! I’ll never forget it!

What do you think your win means for other Saudi women?

I see my success as confirmation that Saudi women are capable of competing against the best,

whatever field they’re in, and taking top spot on merit. This is one of the objectives of Vision 2030; to show that Saudi women can excel across the board.

What’s in the pipeline now you’ve taken the Top Chef Middle East 2020 title?

I’m keen to invest in the food industry and share Arabic cuisine’s tastes and flavors with the wider world. My plans include opening a restaurant that reflects my philosophy about food. I’d launch it in Saudi Arabia as a tribute to my country, but in the future, I’d love to also embark

on a project abroad, either opening a branch or trying out a new concept in another location.

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