Sudqi Naddaf, Executive Chef at Kempinski Hotel Mall of The Emirates
Sudqi Naddaf is a Jordanian chef of Palestinian origin, a professional in the Middle East and African regions of food production. He has been named “regional champion” for Kempinski Hotels in healthy food products. In this article we bring you a very engaging story.
When did your passion for cooking begin?
I had always liked helping my mother with cooking and preparing the dining table every day, I remember thinking that cooking was just a task for women, until I watched my uncle in our house cooking professionally. I learned at that time he was a chef and that encouraged me even more to learn cooking. I learned cooking from my mother, grandmother and my uncle then I joined The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts. My family welcomed the idea of being a chef with open arms.
What is a lesson that you learned at the beginning of your career that you will never forget?
I was raised by the best chefs in the world and travelled to many Arab and Western countries and experienced different cultures. I learned an important lesson, which is not to waste my time criticizing the work of others. I understood the meaning of perseverance and thinking in a way that developed my proficiency that contributed towards my goal by adding positive touches to Middle Eastern cuisine.
How would you describe your culinary journey?
I prefer the modern middle eastern cuisine while preserving the original flavours. I also like the Italian and French cuisine.
You have been successful in joining the world’s most famous hotel chain, what did you do to attract attention and cement your place?
I have worked very hard and never gave up, despite the difficult circumstances I faced because of my Arab nationality; not to mention that my passport does not allow me the freedom of movement like others, but I shined above many others and succeeded with hard work and commitment, thank Allah.
I started working with Kempinski in Amman in 2004, then Kuwait, Aqaba, the Dead Sea, Istanbul, Dubai, Munich, Bangkok, Qatar and Muscat. Every country has a special memory, but my work in Dubai gives me an incredible opportunity to open up to the world. I was able to overcome all challenges and difficulties and I proved my proficiency in cooking by being the director chef of the hotel, today I have been working for the hotel for more than seven years.
I feel proud to work in the Ciragan Palace Kempinski, the palace of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, in Istanbul, which gave it a historic flavour, not to mention the quality of raw materials in Turkey. My experience in Munich was also distinctive, as it was the oldest Kempinski Hotel.
What is the secret behind the successes of your “Healthy Food” and accordingly you have been honoured?
The long period I have spent working at Kempinski has allowed me to show my creativity in the culinary world and create healthy dishes. The company has already assigned teams that specialize in different fields for development of food and beverage. I volunteered to prepare healthy dishes and worked with a team inside the company and we developed this project together.
What is the role of your grandmother in the Arab cuisine scene?
My grandmother is the source of my inspiration. She uses organic and seasonal products and she tends always to recycle things creatively.
What dish does your mother do better than you?
Maqluba, the famous dish in Palestine and Sham. It consists of rice, chicken and fried vegetables, most notably eggplant and cauliflower. I really do not know why my mother is superior in this dish to be honest. I think it is a divine secret.
Who is a world-renowned chef that has impressed you the most?
I was fortunate to work with the late international chef Paul Bocuse, which left a great impact on my experience. He was distinguished by his high quality selection as he had a wonderful sense to taste and a special way of thinking. He would pick the ingredients by himself every day before the sunrise and would not hesitate to repeat his attempts to do his best until he succeed.
To what extent is a chef encouraged when they are given a free range of creativity and resources by their employers?
There are many companies that limit innovation and require chefs to follow the company’s internal standards and recipes. I am fortunate in my work at a company like Kempinski that has given me the confidence to innovate and develop. It is without a doubt a great burden and requires hard work that requires me to persevere, respect opinions and to work accordingly to develop the culture of the Middle Eastern cuisine in order to show it in the best way possible within the global food scene.
Surly you have your own creative recipes, can you tell us about the dishes you have made improvements on?
I developed a Palestinian Musakhan dish and I added to it modern ingredients that are in line with the development of the modern culinary world such as condensed milk, AGAR AGAR and Xanthan, and I won with this dish a global competition in China. And the original ingredients and cooking style never changed.
I am not afraid to change the features of traditional dishes as long as I preserve the original flavours.
In Jordanian cuisine, which is famous for its fats, I avoid fatty substances and replace them with less heavy ingredients while preserving their flavour and thus attract attention from different cultures.
What is the dish you are the most proud of and is requested the most?
I created a dish called Fish in pottery with olives and herbs, we break the pottery in front of the guest to extract the fish from it after baking for 45 minutes in the oven and this dish is the most successful in one of our restaurants.
Your dishes seem to be like painting, how do you preserve the original flavour of the food while matching the modern style of cuisine such as the diversity and the innovative ways of cooking?
It is not easy to keep the same level up. Training, follow-up and continuous effort are required for the final product. I tend to decorate food with attractive colours, away from artificial colours, using the natural ingredients of vegetables, fruits and herbs.
I am inspired by nature and some of the innovations of the world’s other chefs.
What about the recipe you recently added to your list?
I added fresh cream to a traditional chicken liver dish with the addition of Halabi chili sauce and pomegranate molasses, I mix them together in an excellent way, and the dish became new for people.
To what extent have Middle East chefs succeeded in developing their kitchens in the recent years?
I think that Arab cuisine has risen to a distinct position that it has not reached before and it is up to the next generation to complete the road from where we have finished and surpass us. We as Arab chefs are familiar with international kitchens and in contrast, the Europeans have a lack of information about Arab cuisine, which is a good point for us for the near future, especially in that we have the ability to integrate ingredients in a beautiful way without changing the original flavours.
What is something that you would not be able to cook without?
A sharp knife, pure mind and passion.
What happens when Eastern flavours meet European kitchen technologies?
The Central Europe regions rely mainly on baked goods and meat, in East Asia they rely on fish and seafood and the method of pickling food; Central Asia is famous for its hot food and spices.
The techniques used in the European kitchens are of course very advanced compared with Arab Kitchens. However, the Arab cuisine is making great progress on its western counterpart in the matter of the integration of flavours and spices, especially since it has a tradition in different cooking methods such as coal and pottery. When Arabic spices are mixed with western techniques, a recipe of amazing flavour and form will be the final dish.
You represented the Arab cuisine in many festivals, can you describe the reactions of the Western connoisseur?
They were always surprised by the flavours and the integration of ingredients of the Arab cuisine, especially the Arabic spices. By the way, the experience I gained through travelling opened the prospects which I was delaying in front of me.
As a chef, if you had an opportunity to do whatever you wanted for a year, without any consideration of money. What would you like to do?
I would go to the world’s largest culinary and catering bazaars to see the delicacies and cuisine of the Middle East without hesitation.
What countries are you looking forward to work in?
France, specifically Paris, which is the origin of modern cuisine.
What is the most delightful news you have received since you become a chef?
Being selected to be a member of the jury panel of the “Top Chef Arabic Version” in the final episode of the third season.
If you wrote a book about cooking, what are the things you would include in it?
I would like to discuss my experience of integrating Arab cuisine with contemporary European cuisine and the secrets of the success of Arab food flavours. I have a dream of being the best ambassador to the Arab world in this regard.
If you had advice that is not included in cookbooks, what would you like to tell a starting chef?
I would like to advise them to focus on innovative dishes, which are easy for people to remember and talk about, not only about the taste but also about their style in presenting it.
I also would say to them, do what you are convinced of. Life is full of experiences and errors can make you strong by overcoming them. Do not give up.
What is the thing that you find detrimental in many chefs?
Has the Arab society begun to change its stereotypical image about the culinary field?
Yes, pretty much. In the old days the chef’s career was a “shame” but now everyone wants to talk to the chef and take advantage of his experiences.
What is the most beautiful moment you’ve experienced?
When my family and I sit at one dining table.
Highlighted Awards received by Chef Sudqi Naddaf
- Chef of the Year “Hotel and Catering Award Middle East 2018”
- Gold Award Chef of the Year “Hospitality Excellence Chef 2018”
- Chef of the Year “Leaders in Hospitality Award Middle East 2017”
- 50 outstanding chefs in the world from Global Gourmet in Shanghai, China
- Runner up for Chef of the Year Caterer middle east 2013
- Shortlisted for Chef of the Year Hotelier Middle East 2017
Thank you Sudqi Naddaf.
What is your plan for your future as a chef?
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