COVID-19 lockdown brings out hidden kitchen talents of Saudi men

Rakan Aloraifi, self-taught Saudi chef, TV presenter and director of Aregala KSA, has carved out a niche for himself with his culinary talents. (Supplied)
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Updated 10 April 2020

COVID-19 lockdown brings out hidden kitchen talents of Saudi men

  • Curfews have provided opportunity for men to show off their kitchen catering abilities by cooking up some tasty meals
  • Saudi mothers and YouTube become culinary instructors for men in developing their cooking skills

RIYADH: The famed home cooking skills of Saudi women have found a surprise challenger during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown — with men revealing their hidden culinary talents.

Curfews set up to help stop the spread of the virus have provided the opportunity for men to show off their kitchen catering abilities by cooking up some tasty family meals.

Quality auditor Ahmed bin Ibrahim has been staying at his family’s house during quarantine, and told Arab News that he had enjoyed pitching in on kitchen duties.

“I like to help my mother while she is cooking by cutting some vegetables, but I learned how to cook years ago when I was a student in the US,” he said.

His mom and YouTube became his culinary instructors during his time in America and his favorite dishes are kabsah, steaks and quesadillas.

“Lately, my dad has been cooking a lot and grilling in our back yard, so I’ve been helping him,” he added.




Ammar Albarakati, owner of Ammar Restaurant and TV presenter on Sabahcom on SBC. (Supplied)

Faris Al-Harbi, a college student from Tabuk, has been putting lockdown time to good use in the kitchen trying to create new recipes for his family to lighten the mood.

“Since home isolation started, I have cooked five dishes — mandi (a traditional meal with meat and rice), broasted chicken, pizza, grilled dishes, and pasta with pesto sauce.”

He said that it was only since the COVID-19 restriction measures had been put in place that his talent for cooking healthy food had emerged.

“My family really admires my cooking and loves the taste of my dishes.”

Al-Harbi added that he intended to continue cooking once the COVID-19 health crisis was over, but in the meantime had introduced a kitchen challenge for his cousins and family.

“Every day, a member of the family has to cook a dish and is evaluated by experts — my mother and father. This creates a bit of a competition which is nice. Everyone wants to cook something that is delicious and creative, which makes us excited to cook again.”




Abdulrahman bin Kasem, Saudi chef and food blogger. (Supplied)

He pointed out that under the current situation it was sometimes hard to find an alternative for some ingredients not available in the home. “It is also difficult to estimate the right amount of ingredients for the family. Preparing the dough and forming it is also hard.”

Al-Harbi’s brother Abdulrahman, an architect, had been challenged to cook madghout — pressure-cooked chicken and rice — for the first time for his family.

“It was the first time I had cooked, so I couldn’t say whether I was talented or not, but it definitely needed some focus,” he said, adding that his creation was well-received. “YouTube has a lot of cool Saudi chefs and their videos are so simple and easy to execute. It helps anyone who wants to try to cook.”

Al-Harbi’s sister Shahad told Arab News that she was surprised to see her brothers’ talent in the kitchen and would struggle to compete with them.

Speaking about her younger brother Khalid, who is currently studying in the US, she said: “He likes to try international foods and he uses fresh ingredients and different spices. He likes to make avocado toast, steaks, cheesecakes, exotic juices, and risotto.

Although a mess is inevitable in some kitchens as male family members go through a trial-and-error phase, most mothers will undoubtedly be proud and happy with the help they are receiving under the current difficult circumstances.


Scarlett Johansson remarries in ‘intimate ceremony’

Updated 30 October 2020

Scarlett Johansson remarries in ‘intimate ceremony’

  • Johansson was previously married to Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds and French journalist Romain Dauriac

LOS ANGELES: Hollywood star Scarlett Johansson has married for a third time, tying the knot at an “intimate ceremony” over the weekend with comedian Colin Jost, it was announced Thursday.
Johansson, the world’s top-paid actress last year who is set to star in the much-delayed Marvel superhero film “Black Widow,” announced the nuptials through food charity Meals on Wheels.
The pair wed in front of “immediate family and loved ones, following COVID-19 safety precautions,” the charity wrote on Instagram.
“Their wedding wish is to help make a difference for vulnerable older adults during this difficult time by supporting @mealsonwheelsamerica,” said the post, inviting donations.
The 35-year-old star became engaged to “Saturday Night Live” writer and actor Jost, 38, in May 2019 after two years of dating.
New York-born Johansson was previously married to Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds and French journalist Romain Dauriac.
After a series of child roles, Johansson came to prominence in Sofia Coppola’s Oscar-winning 2003 romantic comedy “Lost in Translation.”
She has since transitioned to A-list roles, including eight Marvel film appearances as Natasha Romanoff, and earned $56 million to top Forbes’ 2019 top-paid actress list.
Johansson earned two Oscar nominations last year, for “Jojo Rabbit” and “Marriage Story.”
In addition to her acting, Johansson has previously spoken out for women’s causes: she was one of the first to join and help finance the Time’s Up movement that works to defend victims of sexual harassment and abuse.