Rosewood Jeddah is known for its lavish and meticulous Ramadan preparations every year, and this year seems to be no exception. Executive Chef Amjad Ghandoor, ensures that he leaves no stones unturned to give customers the best of Saudi hospitality, with a modern touch, to make the most of their suhoor and iftar spreads this year.
We met with Chef Amjad to know more about his vision at the Rosewood, and how they are planning to make Ramadan ’16 at Rosewood Jeddah more memorable than before.
Thank you for taking out your valuable time, Chef Amjad. You have worked at many prestigious hotels across Asia, and your career and efforts as ambassador of Arabic cuisine, is well known across culinary circles in Jeddah.
Tell us something about what brought you into this field, and what the major influences in your career are.
My passion for food is my biggest influence. I like cooking, and I like to eat! I used to engage myself in the kitchen with my mother since I was 14 or 15 years old. I’ve loved cooking since then, and insisted on convincing my family to let me follow this passion. Following my Hotel Management studies in Jordan, I got some good opportunities to work in hotels from Dubai to Hong Kong to Turkey, among other places, before joining Rosewood Jeddah. To become a chef, you need to know not just the food, but the people, their culture, religions, lifestyles. That’s what makes a chef different from a cook! It is very important to be a part of the whole experience, to completely involve yourself in the environment and understand the food, more than just know what food is.
What defines hotel ethics in Jeddah? How has the culinary experience been for you here?
Food culture in Jeddah is incomparable, totally different from the rest of Asia. Saudi Arabia has a lot of diversity, it’s very cosmopolitan. People bring their culture here and adapt it to the environment. People here love eating out. Saudis love eating, but they are very rooted in culture as well; even the new generation knows their culture very well. Yet they are extremely aware of the different cuisines from around the world.
What have been the highlights of your work at Rosewood Jeddah?
As I mentioned, culture is very important for me as a chef, especially in Saudi Arabia, so this is what we are working on. We are bringing young Saudis into the kitchen, training and educating them to deliver food which is rooted in their culture, but in a modern way. This is what we are working on right now.
What does Ramadan in Jeddah mean to you?
People in Ramadan expect more traditional food. It is in fact a traditional time, for people to go back to their roots once more.
Rosewood Jeddah follows a particular trend in its Ramadan preparations every year. How are you preparing for it this year?
Till last year, our Ramadan buffet would have a small section of Saudi food, prepared by chefs from outside. But this year, as we are training more Saudi chefs to be a part of our team, they are involved in the development of the program, and we are proud to announce that these chefs will showcase themselves in the Ramadan spreads. This is the highlight of Ramadan preparations. Our theme will be mainly Hijazi.
What will be the highlight of your iftar menu?
As I said, we are mainly focusing on Hijazi food such as harees, a few varieties of jareesh, among others. But we will also include a few Najdi dishes, such as matazees and qursan. Moreover, about 25% of our menu will be Turkish. Of course, to cater to the newer generation, we also have an international menu that would include everything- fast food, sushi, steaks, very elaborate seafood spreads.
What makes the suhoor stand out?
Suhoor, as we mentioned, is heavier; it is the main meal in Ramadan. We will have the Ouzi, the haroof; and about 8 varieties of stew; half of which will be Saudi, the other half Turkish and international. We will also have murkhiya. Fattah is an important part of the Middle Eastern diet as well. So we have Egyptian fatteh as part of our live kitchen, in order to give our customers the freshness and crispness of its ingredients.
Ramadan in Jeddah is known for stunning decorations. How has the Rosewood planned the décor for this festive month?
The decoration will be based on the Hijazi theme. A lot of Arabesque wood work, lights, etc.
As a chef, what are some challenges that you face in Ramadan preparations?
Ramadan is our bread and butter of the year! Not just in generating revenue, but our focus is to exceed our guests’ expectations. However, I personally feel that Ramadan IS the easiest month of the year, and I really cannot think of any challenge! We have a lot of time on our hands to prepare for the iftar and suhoor meals. We have the ingredients, manpower, chefs, equipment, ideas; we prepare for this many months in advance, so we actually look forward to Ramadan and to cater to our guests in the best way possible. Our aim is to be #1 in the eyes of our customers, which is what we prepare for.
What can guests expect for Eid?
Eid is a family event, but people like to be relaxed on that day. We will have a family brunch, which will go on for about 4 days of Eid. But our main focus is on Oriental desserts, and we are producing about 20 varieties of our own chocolate and its items.
Many thanks for your valuable time, Chef Amjad. We wish you and your team the best of luck, and look forward to another delightful Ramadan feast at Rosewood Jeddah!
View details of events at Rosewood Jeddah this Ramadan: