Chef Ghada El Tally, a shining star for international food companies
Ghada is an extraordinary Jordanian cook with Egyptian blood running through her veins. She is full of life, and anything she touches turns into a masterpiece. Her elegant sense of art and love for everything beautiful helped her succeed despite starting a bit later in life; raising her children first and then embarking on her own unique journey.
In the last few years, Ghada El Tally has managed to become the face for numerous international food brands and companies, such as Nestle, especially one of its major subsidiaries, Maggi, which she became its ambassador in addition to other famous brand names like Kiri and Loaker. Furthermore, Ghada was able to write two books and establish a training center in order to teach women cake decoration in addition to establishing an incredibly unique sweets shop.
It is seldom to find chefs who can withstand the pressure Ghada endures since she hosts two live cooking shows in two different countries; she spends 4 days in Egypt, her second home, where she hosts CBC’s Sufra (Banquet), then she comes back to Jordan to spend the rest of the week and host two episodes on Roya TV.
A job like Ghada’s requires a person who has passion and contributes to their craft endlessly, according to her. Here you will find the details of this thrilling interview!
By Hadeel Atalla
When and how did this overwhelming passion begin?
I had never been interested in becoming a TV hostess nor achieving fame. However, and after my kids grew over the age of 12, I started working from home so I could take care of them and help them with their schooling rather than leaving them alone.
Of course, I owe my passion of cooking to my Egyptian grandmother who taught me Egyptian and European cuisine in addition to my aunt who mastered dishes from the Levantine.
Later on, my ambition grew bigger and bigger, as my husband, mother and siblings encouraged me to publish my first book, Za’fran wa Vanilla (saffron and vanilla) and then I started facilitating cooking courses for ladies before opening a training center dedicated for this purpose and ultimately appearing on TV screens.
How do you describe your cooking style?
I’ve always preferred an inclusive cooking style so I don’t become too specialized in one specific genre. This way, I can do more than one thing, including cooking, pastry and desserts, cake decoration, and handicrafts. It is quite rare to have someone who can make all these things at once!
It is obvious that you your best to keep the flame alight through learning culinary arts and traveling. Could you elaborate more on that?
Sure! As you know, it all starts with a gift, then experience and attempting to cook different recipes. After my TV shows gained success, I decided to learn culinary arts. People around me thought that was a weird decision; why would I study something if I became this famous already? Nonetheless, the reason behind my decision to learn culinary arts was self-development and fulfilling my desire to delve deeper in some aspects.
I have attended Les Roche, which is an internationally-renowned Swiss hospitality school, for one year in their Jordanian branch. Honestly speaking, attending Les Roche has benefited me immensely, as I noticed improvements in my performance, especially in making desserts, given that the school hires the best chefs in this field. Later on, I became a certified international referee thanks to a seminar that I attended.
My love for learning is never-ending, and I have no problem traveling from one country to another just to learn a dessert recipe and make a better version of it. One time, I traveled to Turkey to learn something about food sculptures which I didn’t fully master. I don’t mind cutting long distances to learn a new dessert recipe so I can make it with my own touch, and I always love to learn from the best of the best, even if the reason was self-satisfaction.
Speaking of traveling to learn, whenever I visit a country, I make sure to visit its famous restaurants even before visiting its landscapes. I am always curious to try new dishes especially at Michelin Star-winning restaurants, given that such restaurants serve the newest dishes there are, which gives me the chance to catch up with the newest updates in the world of cooking. Allow me to say that I am very pleased that the middle eastern cuisine opened up to international cuisines; it is a beautiful thing to utilize ideas from international cuisines and develop according to it, taking into consideration that whatever the inspired idea is complies with the values of our community and faith.
Designing and decorating cakes is a world of wonders, what does it require?
Dessert preparation is a tough task and I am confident to say that it is as minute as doing chemistry; if we mix ingredients in specific ratios, we will have a specific recipe. However, if we use the same ingredients but with different ratios, then we will come up with a whole new recipe. As for decorating cakes, this is a work of art that needs endless precision and talent.
It is noteworthy that a cake that looks good must taste good as well so we don’t disappoint the customer; customers expect good-looking confections to taste as good as they look. Otherwise, they will be very disappointed!
You have opened a confectionery shop recently, what distinguishes it from other similar businesses?
What makes my shop unique is making cakes with amazing designs and flavor. For example, Red Velvet cake is almost the same all over the country. However, my team and I managed to add additional ingredients to make it standout, not to mention that we use high-quality products so that our dishes have an appealing taste and smell.
You named your book after Saffron and Vanilla, why exactly did you pick this name?
Because vanilla extract is the most expensive confectionary flavoring, while saffron is the most expensive spice used in cooking.
Even though some pastry chefs refused to teach you cake decoration, you became successful at it and now you teach women who are seeking to make a living out of it. How do you feel?
I feel so happy and joyous whenever women approach me with the good news that they have kicked off their home businesses based on my recipes. Many women have started making a living out of the 10-minute dough recipe in addition to making and decorating cakes. Every day I pray to become a reason behind impacting people’s lives positively, even if that impact was as little as a family feeling happy after trying a recipe of mine.
When people see the how successful you have become, they think it must have been easy for you to achieve what you have done. How would you reply to this?
My success did not come overnight; I have paid in blood, sweat and tears to get to achieve such status to the extent that I sold stuff in bazaars. Sometimes I would deprive myself from sleeping only to watch and learn new recipes and cake decorating methods in addition to purchasing products and tools online to try it.
As an ambassador for multiple food companies, what are your conditions, especially when it comes to compliance with health and safety standards, in order to become the ambassador for those companies?
Throughout my career, I have represented and I’m still representing large and multinational companies. I have never worked with a company before making sure that their products are 100% safe. After all, I have fans and a large audience that trust me and I cannot betray that trust or I will harm myself before harming them. Generally speaking, I work with large companies, but when it comes to local companies, I make sure that their production process is absolutely safe. Sometimes I even ask them to take me on a tour to their factories just to make sure that they comply with regulations and standards.
Based on your personal observations, how do food companies choose their ambassadors?
To be frank, food companies don’t necessarily choose the best chefs, as they prefer influential, lovable and charismatic chefs with a high number of social media followers.
What is your perspective towards Maggi, given it was your platform towards stardom?
Maggi belongs to Nestle, the third largest conglomerate in the world, which is specialized in producing cooking-related products, including soups, sauces, and noodles in addition to its most famous product of all; the chicken bouillon cubes. It is the first company which I have been honored to work with for the last 10 years.
Being associated with huge trademarks like Nestle and Maggi is a great addition to my resume, especially that I was at the beginning of my career as a chef and host at Roya TV. It is my utmost pleasure to continue working with such prestigious companies and it is not strange that those companies have kick-started my career so well. Working with Maggi dictated that I organize cooking shows live in malls which created direct contact with an audience, and subsequently created links with other companies.
Again, I’m so glad that I am Maggi’s exclusive ambassador, as I usually prepare recipes and dishes using Maggi products. Moreover, and in coordination with Maggi management, we’ve organized social media and public contests, not to mention that Maggi sponsors a show called “Malikat Al Matbakh” (Kitchen Queen).
How much do you contribute towards increasing sales of the trademarks you work with?
If I wasn’t the reason behind a significant rise in the sales of those companies, they wouldn’t keep working with me. For example, I have been working with Kiri for 5 years. This continuity means that they are satisfied with my performance.
Do you have the opportunity to develop products, or your role is only limited to marketing products through recipes?
That depends mainly on the nature of the company I work with; it is much easier to send feedback to local companies since communicating with them is much easier. As for international companies, I don’t interfere with the ingredients of their products even though they have offices all over the world. Generally speaking, I don’t accept marketing products that I don’t like.
Some people believe that working as a chef is more suited to men than women due to its work load and pressure. Do you agree with this statement?
Absolutely not. Working as a chef is only suitable to those who love it, whether they are men or women; if you look at famous or well-known chefs, you will find women among their ranks too!
Personally speaking, I host two different TV shows in two different countries which I move between during the week. I also cook as much as 8 to 12 recipes per day. Living under such a workload is not something that anyone can handle, especially women given their nature. However, if a woman manages to handle the stress of working as a chef, it would be better to accumulate experience for an amount of time so she can move to a higher position.
Hosting live TV shows includes numerous bloopers and embarrassing moments which require wits. Do you remember any of it?
I had some of those moments, such as missing ingredients or machinery malfunctions. One time I was mixing ingredients in a blender. When I turned the blender off, I raised the pitcher to empty the ingredients. Unfortunately, the blender bottom got stuck while I was holding the pitcher and I spilled the whole mixture and the recipe was no more. I saved the situation by saying that this simply can happen in any house. I didn’t get confused and I continued describing the procedure and I remade the recipe in the following week.
Finally, when sitting at Ghada’s table, what surprises does she prepare for her guests?
At each banquet I make and invite my loved ones to join, I have to come up with at least two new dishes which I cook passionately. It amuses me and fills me with joy when I hear them express their excitement and simply say “yummy”!
Thank you so much Ghada.