Saudi chef Faisal Al-Deleigan

DUBAI: When the Saudi chef Faisal Al-Deleigan was younger, his mother hoped he would pursue a career in either medicine or engineering. “My mom is so strict,” he told Arab News with a chuckle, “nobody was allowed to enter the kitchen because she’s so organized and she’s a good cook.”

However, things did not go according to his mother’s plan — he worked in the banking sector for years until he had a rather extreme change of heart.

Al-Deleigan, who is based in Bahrain, took cooking classes at professional schools in Italy and the UK and eventually quit the corporate world for good. However, he notes that his former banking experience came in handy when setting up his namesake culinary consultancy in 2016. “I still love numbers and I believe they helped me a lot in the way of thinking and business,” he said.

Through his consultancy services, Al-Deleigan offers to train kitchen staff, design kitchen layouts and, most importantly, engineer menus, experimenting with dishes that fuse multicultural tastes and ingredients. The journey so far has been rewarding — “I reached what I wanted: To see my customers smile and that (appreciation) makes me feel very good. Everyone likes food and nowadays it’s part of entertainment,” he said.

This year marks the second occasion that Valentine’s Day is being openly celebrated in Saudi Arabia and despite restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Al-Deleigan has been busy prepping recipes for couples to cook together from his new “Lockdown Menu,” which will be published in international magazines. On what people can expect, he explained: “I’m more into the healthy kind of cooking. Because of the lockdown and lack of exercise, our lifestyle is different now. So, we tried to make it lighter.”

Al-Deleigan hopes that through his unconventional story of breaking the norm, he can encourage people to follow their passion, whether it be performing in the field of art, music or gastronomy. “Everything is different,” he said, “we are a new generation with new hopes and dreams.”

If you haven’t sorted out your Valentine’s Day plans, scroll down for an exclusive healthy and simple recipe for two by Chef Faisal that you can whip up with your loved one today. Bon appétit!

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