ISLAMABAD: Pakistani women chefs fared impressively at a culinary competition in Saudi Arabia held earlier this month, bagging four medals after cooking up scrumptious Pakistani dishes in Riyadh.
The Kingdom Chef Competition is an international contest that is part of the Foodex Saudi exhibition, held under the supervision of the International Association of Chefs and the Saudi Chefs Association.
The contest is open to all chefs and culinary enthusiasts, both citizens and residents of Saudi Arabia, to showcase their cooking skills.
The ninth edition of the tournament was held in Riyadh from September 13-16, providing an opportunity for visitors to experience culinary delights from more than 40 different countries prepared by over 140 global chefs.
“I am happy that I presented Pakistani cuisine in the kingdom and people liked it,” Pakistani chef Hina Shoib told Arab News over the phone from Jeddah. “I took part in two categories, meat and chicken, and won a separate bronze medal in each of them.”
Shoib said it was a matter of “great pride and honor” for her to stand among the best chefs in the world and that too, without proper training.
“When I told the judges that I am going to make a kebab, they were astonished that how will you do that in a 45-minute time limit from raw meat,” Shoib said. “I said I will do it and I did it.”
Shoib said she wanted to prove that nothing was difficult if one pursued it with “strong will.”
Shagufa Afshan, another Pakistani chief, bagged two bronze medals and a silver at the competition.
Speaking to Arab News, Afshan said she wanted to highlight the unique taste of Pakistani cuisine in the kingdom, where people usually have trouble separating it from Indian food.
“My main purpose is to highlight unique Pakistani cuisine because unfortunately, we are far behind Indian cuisine in Saudi Arabia,” she told Arab News over the phone from Jeddah, adding that this was the second time she had won prizes at a culinary competition in Saudi Arabia.
“I won second prize at the Foodex Saudi in March 2022 held at the Jeddah exhibition center,” she said. “This time again, I won two bronze medals in the competition held in Riyadh this month.”
For Afshan, the competition’s ‘mystery box challenge’ was the most demanding, requiring chefs to prepare a dish from whatever ingredients came out of a box.
“You have to cook or bake it then and there in 45 minutes by utilizing those things,” she said.
Judges awarded marks based on an EAT standard (execution, appearance, and taste), Afshan said, where taste had the maximum weightage out of 100 marks.
“I am trying to get a work permit and then will start culinary classes for both men and women,” she added.
Hamzah Gilani, a spokesperson for the Pakistani consulate in Jeddah, said such cooking competitions fostered a sense of “community and camaraderie” among participants.
“It is a fun way to meet new people and make new friends,” he said. “Additionally, they help promote healthy eating habits and teach people about different cuisines from around the world.”