Recipes for success: Chef John Mark offers advice and a salmon batayaki recipe

Chef John Mark has worked at a number of prestigious establishments over the years. (Supplied)
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Updated 23 May 2024

Recipes for success: Chef John Mark offers advice and a salmon batayaki recipe

DUBAI: Chef John Mark has worked at a number of prestigious establishments over the years, in the Maldives, Mauritius, the UAE, and India, among others. Now, he’s the chef de cuisine at Japanese restaurant Gishiki 45 in The St. Regis Red Sea Resort. 

Here, Mark discusses embracing mistakes, his favorite dish to make, and the importance of a healthy working environment. 

Gishiki 45. (Supplied)

What one ingredient can instantly improve any dish?  

I love the smell of garlic and the smell of onion. These two ingredients are very important in Asian cuisine; they give the dishes a nice aroma and flavor, and can enhance any dish.  

When you go out to eat, do you find yourself critiquing the food?  

I’m not one to criticize any chef or restaurant unless there are mistakes in the dish that I ordered. I respect chefs. I respect people who are working in the hospitality. And if I do need to say something, I make sure to say it in the right manner. 

What’s the most common mistake that you find in other restaurants? 

That the service team and the kitchen are at war. This is the chef’s responsibility. We need to make sure that the service team and the kitchen are one. It’s so important, because, as chefs, we cook, but the service team deal with the guests. The only thing that we want is to make the guests happy. So we need to be a team. 

What’s your favorite cuisine? 

Thai food. I love coconut flavors and Thai food has coconut in almost all the dishes. The flavors and the smell are rich. It makes me happy.  

What’s your go-to dish if you have to cook something quickly at home? 

My daughter loves to eat. I let my family try different cuisines, but she really loves pasta. So, I cook pasta for my daughter — and for my wife of course. We also have a famous dish in the Philippines called chicken adobo, and when I am home I like to cook that for my family. 

Gishiki 45. (Supplied)

What customer request most annoys you? 

You cannot be annoyed at your guests as a chef. You need to be flexible. We are here, in this world, to learn, and this is a huge opportunity. I can’t just focus on one thing like a horse; I have to keep an open mind. Why not try what they ask for, if this is what they want? 

What’s your favorite dish to cook and why?  

It’s something we’re famous for in the Philippines. It’s very authentic, you only really see it in the villages. It’s called beggar’s chicken. It’s so delicate. It’s a long process. You need to marinate the chicken and stuff it, then you wrap it in banana leaf. Then, you put mud on it. You cook it in the mud. So, when its cooked, you need to break the mud and open it. It smells amazing.  

As a head chef, what are you like? 

When I started as a chef, there was a lot of tension and a lot of shouting, but I don’t think this is a good environment. I don’t want it to be quiet in my kitchen, but I don’t want tension. Of course, I can be a little strict, but I don’t want anyone to shout at my staff. I have to talk to them nicely. Shouting is not on my menu. 

Chef Mark’s Salmon Batayaki recipe    


160g salmon; 1 oyster mushroom 

For the dashi water:  

Mix 100ml water; 5g konbu; 2g katsuobushi 

For the batayaki sauce: 

Mix 2 spoons soy sauce; 20g butter; 50ml dashi water; 1 spoon yuzu juice 


1. Season the salmon with salt and pepper and dust with corn flour. 

2. Heat fryer to 180 celsius and fry the salmon for 2 minutes. 

3. ⁠Prepare a heated non-stick pan. Heat your batayaki sauce. 

4. ⁠Put your salmon and mushroom in the batayaki sauce and simmer until the sauce becomes shiny and has a buttery texture. 

5.  Garnish with crispy leek and serve.  

‘This has been a journey for me,’ Kevin Costner says of passion project

Updated 13 July 2024

‘This has been a journey for me,’ Kevin Costner says of passion project

LOS ANGELES: Oscar-winner Kevin Costner brought his passion project "Horizon: An American Saga" to the big screen this summer. A labor of love since 1988, Costner wrote, produced, financed, starred in, and directed the film.

His dedication paid off at the Cannes Film Festival, where it received an 11-minute standing ovation. Despite a lukewarm international box office take, the second part of the saga is on the horizon and will be released at an unspecified date.

“This has been a journey for me and for the people to stand and clap and not stop. And I basically shut out the noise for a while and walked my life backwards and thought about my journey professionally and the journey for ‘Horizon.’ And I was just really grateful at the end of the day that I stayed true to it,” Costner said of the lengthy standing ovation at Cannes.

Costner tells a Western story and focuses on the experiences of Indigenous Americans during colonization. The film meticulously explores a 12-year span during which white settlers encroached upon indigenous lands. With a diverse cast, the narrative offers a rich tapestry of perspectives on exploring new frontiers.

“We're just playing dress ups and telling a story version. But, you know, the frontier was actually founded on people taking wagon trains across through these uncharted territory. So you really get a bit of empathy towards what actually happened,” actor Sam Worthington said.

"Horizon: An American Saga" takes its time to set the tone for an engaging journey into a pivotal era of American history, told with passion and precision. Despite its three-hour runtime and slow pace, British actress Sienna Miller says she enjoyed the process. 

“I realized there were a lot of characters and there were long scenes and people had long monologues. But I like that,” Miller said.

“It was a massive, epic ... sized film to be doing. It’s like hundreds of actors and cattle everywhere, and we're in the elements. But then as an actor, he just slides into the scene. He's got this deep relaxation about the way that he works,” actress Abbey Lee said, with co-star Isabelle Fuhrman adding: “He knows this story backwards and forwards. I mean, it's been long enough for him to finally be on set doing this.”

Daisy Ridley takes a chic turn in Elie Saab

Updated 13 July 2024

Daisy Ridley takes a chic turn in Elie Saab

DUBAI: British actress Daisy Ridley stunned in an elegant Elie Saab look while presenting at the 2024 ESPY Awards in Los Angeles on Thursday.

The ESPY Awards, the Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly, is an event honoring the top athletes and sport performances of the year.


A post shared by Daisy Ridley (@daisyridley)

The 32-year-old “Star Wars” actress skipped the red carpet at the ceremony, held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

She did take the stage, though, to present an award with Buffalo Bills player, Damar Hamlin, during the telecast.

Ridley wore a sleeveless cobalt-blue gown from Lebanese designer Elie Saab. The actress had her hair pulled back into a tight bun as she accessorized the look with blue gem earrings. She completed the ensemble with black heels.

In an interview with Reuters last month, Ridley talked about reprising her role as Jedi hero, Rey, and said that it feels “exciting and nerve-racking” as she returns to the “Star Wars” franchise for a new film.

Walt Disney Co, which purchased Star Wars producer Lucasfilm in 2012 and released three movies starring Ridley from 2015 to 2019 as well as a different TV series, announced new plans for the franchise last year.

“I’m very excited, it feels like a new adventure,” Ridley told Reuters at the London premiere of another Disney film, “Young Woman and the Sea.”

“It’s a world that I’m familiar with, I’m coming back to, but also it feels like a new start. So, it feels exciting and nerve-racking and I’m excited.”


A post shared by Daisy Ridley (@daisyridley)

In “Young Woman and the Sea” Ridley plays American swimmer Gertrude Trudy Ederle, an Olympic gold medalist who became the first woman to swim the English Channel.

In 1926, Ederle set off from northern France for the southern English coast, making the crossing in 14 hours, 31 minutes, and beating the men’s world record by one hour and 59 minutes.


A post shared by Daisy Ridley (@daisyridley)

Despite a huge celebratory parade in New York on her return, Ederle’s name and accomplishments are not as well known to the public as those of other sports figures. Ederle died in 2003.

“Playing someone who is determined and resilient ... who has a real joy for what they’re doing, is wonderful,” Ridley said, adding that she had undergone a “pretty gruelling” swimming training schedule for the role.

Saudi star Fahad Albutairi on his new family comedy film

Updated 12 July 2024

Saudi star Fahad Albutairi on his new family comedy film

  • Albutairi plays workaholic dad in Maitha Alawadi’s Saudi-Emirati film ‘Al Eid Eiden’

DUBAI: Saudi actor, writer and comedian Fahad Albutairi cites two main reasons for taking on the role of beleaguered workaholic dad Rashid in the new family comedy movie “Al Eid Eiden,” which follows a young Saudi-Emirati couple and their three unruly children on vacation at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island.

“What attracted me to the character initially was the fact that Rashid was a father. And I became a father myself recently,” the 39-year-old tells Arab News. “Also, it’s not very common to see millennials being portrayed as parents in productions in the region, and specifically in the GCC.”

Albutairi ’s second reason involved the film’s all-Emirati female crew, including award-winning director Maitha Alawadi, producer Rawia Abdullah and screenwriter Sara Al-Sayegh.

“Sara has been a colleague and a friend for quite some time now. But this was her screenwriting debut. And, for me, I was really curious about the script,” he says. “The fact that it wasn't slapstick in any way, or a little too on the nose when it came to the comedy… It was very much situational. And the premise just got me hooked.

“I also met online with the director Maitha Alawadi and saw that she was a very collaborative person,” he continues. “So that got me really excited about the film.”

Fahad Albutairi and Meera Al-Midfa star as a married couple with three children in ‘Al Eid Eiden.’ (Supplied)

Emirati actress Meera Al-Midfa, making her feature-length debut, plays Rashid’s wife, while Abdulmajeed Fahad, Layal Fahad, and Abdulmohsen Al-Harbi feature as their energetic children: mischievous Ali, headstrong Mariam, and shy Mohammed.

“I immediately picked up on Meera’s tininess,” says Albutairi, laughing. “So that helped with a lot of the physical comedy in the film. I had never seen her in anything before, so then I looked up her short film ‘Monster,’ which she was wonderful in, but that was a drama. Working on comedy scenes is a two-way street; it’s a collaborative effort. If the other person doesn't have good comedic timing, it can ruin (a) funny moment. That was never the case with Meera. She really came into her own when it came to the comedy. I think she’s one of the funniest characters in the film.”

At the heart of the story, Albutairi says, lies “the struggle of parents who are trying to excel professionally as well as have a pretty stable family life. It's a very delicate balance between the two. And in the case of Rashid, I think he's swayed one way more than the other. And the film explores how he turns it around.”

Albutairi — who rose to fame in the early 2010s with his YouTube sketch show “La Yekthar” and, in 2016, was reportedly the first Saudi stand-up to perform at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood — is delighted to be appearing in a movie representing local culture, humor, and family life. It’s something he believes we need more of in the Saudi entertainment scene.

“We have one of the biggest box offices in the region, if not the biggest,” he says. “And it’s happened over a short period of time since we opened cinemas in Saudi (in 2018). With that comes a huge hunger for content and for more representative films that people can watch and relate to a little more — especially if they're made by Saudi filmmakers.

“I'd like to see more family films like this one. But we also need a diversity of genres. There’s definitely a need for more action stuff, more sci-fi stuff. And I'd love to see that happen very soon,” Albutairi continues. “We’re still testing the waters and seeing what the audience's tastes are. As a content creator and filmmaker myself, I’d like to know more about the audience's thoughts through their reactions and appetite for different productions.”

Best & Worst: Actress Darin Al-Bayed talks fashion trends and bad advice

Updated 12 July 2024

Best & Worst: Actress Darin Al-Bayed talks fashion trends and bad advice

DUBAI: Based in Saudi Arabia, Lebanese actress Darin Al-Bayed discusses fashion trends, breathing exercises, and bad advice. 

Best TV show/film you’ve ever seen?   

“The Pianist.” Adrien Brody gave one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. And I really enjoy true stories in movies.  

Worst TV show/film you’ve ever seen?  

I don't like horror movies because they’re fantasies and I don't like fantasy films.  

Best personal style moment so far?   

I absolutely love oversized clothes! You can wear them out, keep it casual, dress them up for formal occasions… Basically, no matter how you style them, they always look great. Even as PJs or when you're chilling with the girls, they just work. 

Worst personal style moment?   

I can’t stand anything tight. Neon colors are a no-go for me too. One time, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and try something new — a fabric test to see what colors suit me. Silver and gold were okay, but bright pinks and similar shades just don’t work for me, and, honestly, I don’t like them. 

Best accessory for a little black dress?   

I prefer when a girl's natural beauty shines through. Simple and natural is my style. I believe the woman should bring value to the outfit, not the other way around. If I do accessorize, I go for simple, petite gold jewelry, like earrings and rings. I hate necklaces. I prefer something subtle that complements the look. 

Worst accessory for a little black dress?   

If someone forces me to wear jewelry they think looks better, it can be tough. That often happens with photoshoots when there’s a stylist involved. They have their own vision, which can be quite different from mine. You know what works best for you and what you’re comfortable with, but sometimes they push you out of your comfort zone. So, I end up wearing the bulky, chunky pieces they pick out. 

Best fashion trend of 2024?    

I still think oversized pieces are trending, and I love that.  

Worst fashion trend of 2024?    

Ripped outfits. I can’t stand them. I just don’t see the appeal. To me, they make a person look like they don't know how to dress properly. I’m not sure how it became a trend.  

 Best advice you’ve ever been given?   

I forget a lot, but the best advice always comes from my mom. She's a treasure trove of wisdom. I’m short-tempered, and my anger issues sometimes lead me to do things I regret. I often wish I’d listened to her when I was younger, around 15, especially about breathing. She’d tell me to go to my room, take 15 seconds to breathe, and make this a habit before bed. When I finally followed her advice, it completely changed me. I thought I needed a doctor, but my mom was the doctor all along. 

Worst advice you’ve ever been given?  

“Do whatever you want” is the biggest lie and the worst advice. I need people who understand situations, especially older people with more experience. I can’t always rely on my feelings. I might think I’m making the right choice, but that’s not always the case. 

Best book you’ve ever read?    

“Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.” It inspired me to start my show “Ana Wa Heya,” which explored the differences between men and women in their duties, thoughts, responsibilities and feelings. I did two seasons. Back then, YouTube was the trending platform, and we’d get six to seven million views for each episode. 

Worst book you’ve ever read?    

I don’t really have a “worst” one. Some take more time to get through, but I don’t regret reading them — I think it’s good that I did. 

Best thing to do when you’re feeling low?    

Breathing exercises. Seriously, they’re incredibly helpful. I also write. A lot. I jot down things that are hard to talk about. I had habits that I’ve changed. Instead of ranting to a friend, I take a notebook and write down my feelings. I also do yoga and stretching. Or I go outside and sit on the beach. During this time, I don’t speak a word. I just write and keep my phone away. 

Worst thing to do when you’re feeling low?    

You have to confront situations. It’s OK to acknowledge that you’re feeling down and give yourself time to feel that. Escaping is not the solution. Give those feelings time, sit alone, and work through them. Then you can move past it. 

Best holiday destination?    

For me, a perfect holiday is doing what I love. Playing volleyball, going to the beach, swimming, and driving from one city to another with people I love are all I need. Even enjoying my favorite foods can make my holiday special. These might seem like small and simple things, but to me, they’re everything. 

Worst holiday destination?   

I can't stand being around controlling people. I hate when someone tries to force me to do things while I am traveling. Having people dictate where I should go and what I should eat feels really limiting to me.   

Best subject at school?    

I really liked history and arts. I love watching historical movies and exploring monuments when I travel. I used to enjoy them even more when I was younger.  

Worst subject at school?    

Math. I never understood it.  

Best thing to do to ensure you have a productive day?   

I always plan my day the night before. I can’t wake up without knowing what I need to do. Not having a plan makes me feel lost.  

Bonjour Saudi presents fresh travel and culture experiences for tourists

Updated 11 July 2024

Bonjour Saudi presents fresh travel and culture experiences for tourists

RIYADH: In the heart of Diriyah’s Samhan district is an old Najdi-style house that’s been given a new lease of life as Bonjour Saudi — a ‘travel and experience design house’ and a local offshoot of UAE-based Bonjour Middle East.

“At Bonjour Saudi we focus on being a bridge between foreigners, expats, tourists and Saudi culture by creating experiences that showcase different parts of that culture — like cuisine, art, and tradition,” French co-founder Cecilia Pueyo told Arab News. “It’s very important for me to work routinely with Saudis to make this happen.

Whether guests are signing up for a multi-day journey around historical sites or for a two-hour cooking or art workshop, though, the aim is the same: to leave them with a better understanding of Saudi culture and history. (AN Photo/ Abdulrhman Bin Shalhuob)

Pueyo is a crafting enthusiast herself, and noticed a gap in the market when she visited the Kingdom and found it hard to access workshops on traditional Saudi crafts such as Sadu weaving, palm weaving, or Kabsa cooking. So, she wanted to create a space for such workshops. It also includes House of Artisans — a store showcasing local handicrafts like candles, abayas, handbags, jewelry, and more, giving guests an opportunity to take a piece of Saudi home with them. 

And Bonjour Saudi also provides guided tours across the country to popular spots including Jeddah, Abha, and AlUla.

Whether guests are signing up for a multi-day journey around historical sites or for a two-hour cooking or art workshop, though, the aim is the same: to leave them with a better understanding of Saudi culture and history. 

In the heart of Diriyah’s Samhan district is an old Najdi-style house that’s been given a new lease of life as Bonjour Saudi. (AN Photo/ Abdulrhman Bin Shalhuob)

“Even though it’s relatively new for the Kingdom to welcome foreigners and expats, (it’s clear that) people want to showcase their culture and share it with you, as well as their hospitality and generosity,” Pueyo said.

“Now, we are in a very important moment and shift in Saudi,” she continued. “This is what I think Bonjour Saudi is about; how we want to make an impact on people. Even if they only have one hour, we can connect them with the right person to deliver a message about the country, about the culture — about their passion — and I hope the guests will understand his or her vision of the Kingdom.”