by Mona Mosly
  • 3 minute read
  • July 15, 2023
Saudi Celebrity Chef Mona Mosly Shares How She Navigates Both Sides Of The Complex Culinary Coin

From watching Top Chef France on television to becoming a part of Top Chef Middle East’s judging panel for six consecutive seasons, Chef Mona Mosly has come a long way. She grew up in a family with an appreciation for diverse food cultures, with her mother being a naturally gifted cook and her father often taking them to popular restaurants to explore new flavours.

When Chef Mona decided to pursue a career in the culinary world, her parents were reluctant at first, but changed their perspective when they saw her unwavering spirit. “I’ve always been driven by passion. I believe in myself—it’s not because I’m perfect, but at least I know what I want,” she says. “If you’re determined and creative, then nothing can stop you,” she adds.

“When I wanted to become a chef, my father made me meet people who were working in the field. They gave me advice, helped me view both sides of the complicated culinary coin— the good and the bad—and prepared me for the journey ahead. It’s not easy to become a chef and, like all other professions, it requires a lot of commitment and drive.”

After attending an etiquette boarding school in Switzerland, Chef Mona studied at the world-renowned Le Cordon Bleu in London to hone her skills. Despite acquiring formal culinary education, she holds that it’s myopic for graduates to assume that they’ve become chefs once they’ve stepped out of the classroom.

“You don’t become a chef overnight. You must experience the process inside and outside the kitchen—from both the client and the busboy’s perspective,” she notes. “It’s essential to go through the struggles, work late hours, and experience the kitchen heat. This is how one grows, not only as a chef but also as a person.”

In 2010, Chef Mona returned to Jeddah and joined Leylaty, a prestigious group of restaurants that also offers banqueting and catering services. She then worked at Al Multaqa restaurant, followed by Toki and Byblos that offer Chinese and Lebanese fare, respectively, before landing an internship at Hôtel Plaza Athénée in Paris, where she was trained by its three-Michelin- starred head chef, Philippe Marc.

“My training in France changed me. The sleepless nights, aching feet and hard work were worth it, as everyone in the kitchen shared the same passion. I could see it in their eyes,” shares Chef Mona. At the hotel, she introduced Arabic cuisine that she learnt from her Syrian mother, with some of her dishes eventually added to its menu. Among her most memorable moments is that Chef Alain Ducasse, one of gastronomy’s most renowned names, used to visit the hotel to try the dishes she made, and particularly enjoyed her signature stuffed vine leaves and Traboulsi hummus.

Chef Mona is currently working on her own pastry catering business called Sweet Atelier, with each recipe inspired by a childhood memory, which will soon open in Riyadh. One of her recent feats is an ongoing collaboration with VOX Cinemas in Saudi Arabia, for which she has curated a new menu to elevate the Kingdom’s in-cinema dining experience.

Guests can pick from more than 20 dishes, including kibbeh nachos, Armenian tabbouleh, Dukka Madani chicken burger, and halva cookies with Syrian ice cream, which are available at all VOX Cinemas Gold locations in Riyadh and Jeddah. “Food is all about memories and the flavours you love, especially those associated with your mother and grandmother’s cooking,” she states. “The menu I’ve crafted for VOX Cinemas reflects that sense of belonging—it’s from my heart to yours.”

Follow @Chefmonamosly on Instagram.

This article was originally published in Villa 88’s Spring 2023 edition. Subscribe here.

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