In the spotlight: Mayada Badr, CEO of KSA’s Culinary Arts Authority

In the spotlight: Mayada Badr, CEO of KSA’s Culinary Arts Authority

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Last February, the Saudi Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan appointed Mayada Badr as the CEO of the newly formed Culinary Arts Authority.  HN caught up with her to learn more about its groundbreaking work codifying Saudi ingredients and techniques.

Recognized as the ‘Queen of Macarons’, this talented and passionate Saudi chef who graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and trained under a number of renowned international chefs, seized the opportunity to highlight Saudi gastronomy and the Kingdom’s culinary excellence.

HN spoke with her to discover more about the love she has for cooking, her experience in the F&B world and to highlight her new vision and strategy for elevating culinary aspect of Saudi Arabia’s cuisine.

Chef Mayada’s culinary journey has undoubtedly been an exciting one. After receiving her BBA in design management at Parsons School of Design and working in the media world, she realized that her true passion was for the kitchen and its arts. “It all started with a macaron at the leading macaron pastry shop in Paris (LaDurée)” she told HN. She continued: “I went to France to study design management and fine arts, and I fell in love with the food in Paris and with all the restaurants. Then I moved back to Dubai, and I worked as a media buyer and planner for Starcom Mediavest Publicis, but it was at this moment when you realize that even though you are doing well in your job and that you are being promoted, it wasn’t the place you wanted to be at.” During her lunch breaks she used to go to her house and cook. “I wanted to open a restaurant, and I decided that if I am going to do so, I want to know everything about it.”

With a Grand Diplôme from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, Chef Badr decided to go back to the Kingdom to found Pink Camel, a high-end French patisserie in Jeddah, best known for its unique fusions of macaron flavors. She also founded a food consulting company and opened the Black Cardamom, a restaurant in Jeddah. She also opened a restaurant in Lebanon, Blanca, with her friend Omar Ajam and his wife. In 2018, Chef Mayada was chosen by the prestigious Parisian caterers, Potel et Chabot, to design the dessert menu, which reflected a Saudi flavor experience for the Al-Ula Gala in the Louvre, Paris.

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“I love learning and everyone must discover their passion, so they love what they’re doing every day,” she added. This love and passion were her main drivers. She was committed to sharing a genuine, high end cooking experience in her country.

During our conversation, Badr stressed the importance of understanding local ingredients and the beauty and exclusivity they bring to the cuisine. “My favorite product is sesame and its diverse spin-offs. I also love cardamom,” she said. This led to her revealing one of her objectives as a leader of the Saudi Culinary Arts Authority, which is innovating to codify Saudi ingredients and techniques. “Saudis have always been used to transmitting recipes orally. We need to codify and document all of our recipes to build our culinary heritage which is very rich.” She added: “It is amazing to be a part of this cultural awakening in Saudi Arabia.

We have already identified the structure of the culinary landscape in the KSA. We will be working on promoting and preserving this heritage, while supporting the youth with education and career building platforms. We will also help restaurants innovate and export their concepts as well as innovate with bi-products from one ingredient.”

Even though she lives for the moment, her new life motto is “Enjoy simple pleasures that could be so rewarding, as simple as enjoying a meal with a piece of bread.”

The lockdown phase did not stop Badr from giving back to the Saudi culinary scene when she kicked off the ‘Irth Matbakhna’ initiative: Participants uploaded old Saudi family recipes and then a selection of them was chosen to be added in a book that will pay tribute to the Saudi culinary heritage. The book will be ready by the end of 2020.

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