Establishing a career as a chef in hotels and restaurants is unconventional for many Saudi Arabian women, but Tabaaji has smashed a glass ceiling and reached a monumental point in her career during Ramadan this year when she was head chef at the biggest Iftar table in the Middle East, at the Ramadan Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center. “If a person has a talent in cooking, they must not neglect it because this is one of the most challenging and fun journeys anyone can have,” said Asma.
Her love for cooking came at a difficult time in her life when she was pushed to take on kitchen duties after the death of both her parents. Having to take on such responsibilities led Asma to become strong and determined in her career and personality.
Tabaaji first entered the catering world by working from home, as she told Arab News, “I started by selling traditional Saudi cuisines at Thumamah (desert district) in Riyadh, because it gets crowded at weekends. Then, I prepared buffets for small parties and celebrations. After that, I applied to Hyatt Regency Hotel and I made the food menu there, adding cuisines and modifying some recipes.”
Asma Abdulhadi Tabaaji continued to strengthen her career as an Arab chef as she went on to join the Fairmont Hotel and prepared the food menu and added Arab and International dishes to the menu there. She is now a head chef with a catering company, Premier Catering, and is responsible for serving up dishes to major events and celebrations in the kingdom. Being successful in her recent endeavors has made the young cook even more determined to push her career further.
Asma Abdulhadi Tabaaji
When asked how she could change the way Saudi society views female chefs, Tabaaji said, “Saudi society is welcoming development and change. It is aware of the crucial role women can play in all fields, not only cooking. Saudi women play the main role in the kitchen of each and every house in Saudi Arabia, so it did not take long to accept a female presence in hotel and restaurant kitchens.” Going forward, her dream is to have her own restaurant and offer up workshops and opportunities to Saudi male and female chefs who have previously been shy of stepping out into the catering market.
She believes her role is still not restricted to her family and work, but extends to encouraging women to take “a step further and become chefs of the future.”