by Sahar Parham Al Awadhi
  • 2 minute read
  • May 03, 2023
Exclusive: Emirati Chef Sahar Parham Al Awadhi’s Fruitful Culinary Journey

People often ask me, “Why pastry?” Truthfully, I’ve always been intrigued by its alchemy—the way certain ingredients in specific proportions react together. The fact that a bowl of liquid
batter goes into an oven and comes out as a solid cake, which we then eat to celebrate milestones like birthdays and anniversaries, makes it all the more special. Don’t desserts make everyone happy?

I’ve had a sweet tooth since a young age. I used to ask my aunts for recipes, and I continue to check the restaurant menus for desserts before anything else, deciding my meal according to the sweet course I’d like to have. My love for them has played an essential role in the way I now construct them as a pastry chef.

I think of eating dessert as a multisensorial experience, packed with flavours, textures and, of course, memories. I’m particularly keen on reconceptualising Emirati desserts, often starting with a dish, deconstructing it, and putting it back together in my own way without compromising its essence.

The cuisines of any country aren’t set in stone, and we can continue to accentuate them as we explore more ingredients and techniques, especially by sourcing items made in the UAE. Buying produce from local farmers and producers helps bolster the country’s economy and creates a cycle of support that encourages us to grow as a community.

In terms of professional growth, I’ve certainly come a long way. After I decided to pursue my passion for cooking, despite acquiring a degree in communication, I secured a position under Chef Izu Ani, the owner of Gaia, and travelled to Paris to learn bread-making at Le Saint Georges.

I then landed a role as a pastry chef at Burj Al Arab, becoming the first Emirati woman to take up the position, and continued my culinary journey there until 2021. Last year, I received the MENA’s Best Pastry Chef Award at the inaugural ceremony that took place in Abu Dhabi. There has been limited representation of Emirati chefs in the country, and I feel honoured to be the first from the community to win the international culinary accolade.

This set the tone for the year to be one of recalibration for me, as I took the leap to immerse myself in my food philosophy, fine-tune everything I’ve learnt so far, and explore new avenues that require self-discipline. I needed to enhance my understanding of the full spectrum in the kitchen, including the savoury side. So, in the summer of 2022, I opened a Ladurée restaurant called Gordes in a small town in the South of France.

I got off the plane, developed the menu, trained the staff, set up the kitchen, and two days later, we were open for business. This gave me the opportunity to push myself out of my comfort zone and run a kitchen with a breakfast, lunch and tapas menu for two months until we closed for the season. All this is to say that no matter what your goals are, passion is the single most important ingredient to bring your plans to fruition. Believe in your strengths, work hard, and turn your dreams into a reality.

Follow @Saharyp on Instagram.

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

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