A number of special awards were given out during the first-ever edition of Middle East & North Africa (MENA)’s 50 Best Restaurants, which was recently held in Abu Dhabi. And Emirati Chef Sahar Parham Al Awadhi was one of the talents who was recognised for making an impact on the world of gastronomy in the region. At the ceremony, Al Awadhi, who made headlines as the first female and Emirati chef to work at Dubai’s iconic Burj Al Arab hotel, made history again as the inaugural MENA’s Best Pastry Chef winner. The award, sponsored by Valrhona, aims to acknowledge and reward talent and excellence in the fields of desserts and pastry. It is voted for by over 200 independent restaurant industry experts and well-travelled gourmets from across the region.
As well as whipping up utterly beautiful desserts, whether Umm Ali, Logaimat or Vanilla Cheesecake,Al Awadhi, one of the few female pastry chefs in the UAE, reflects on their stories and origins. Inspired by the tastes that reflect her upbringing and heritage, she is an advocate of using high quality local produce and supporting people from her country whenever she can. Another way the former Head Pastry Chef at Burj Al Arab ensures maximum flavour is to get products from countries that are known for their specialties, whether its butters and creams from France, cinnamon from India or saffron from Iran. Additionally, Al Awadhi, who evidently thrives in the high-pressure kitchen scene, is passionate about sustainability, biodiversity and food safety.
About Sahar Parham Al Awadhi
Growing up in a family that has always enjoyed bonding over fabulous meals, Al Awahadi has always been zealous about food and baking. However, she didn’t make food art and science a career before trying her hand at something else. She landed her first job at Zayed University, where she worked as a Branding and Social Media Manager after graduating in Communications and Design Management at the American University of Sharjah.
Once the diligent Al Awadhi discovered her vocation for gastronomy, she took a leap of faith and found a job as Pastry Commis at La Serre Bistro & Boulangerie, where she worked alongside mentor Izu Ani. Noticing her talents, Ani, one of Dubai’s most respected chefs, sent her to Paris to hone her skills in baking.
After her experience in the French capital, notably at Le Saint Georges, Al Awahadi returned to La Serre for a year before joining Burj Al Arab, where she started as a Junior Sous Chef in 2016. Al Awadhi quickly rose up the ranks, and by 2019 she was named Head Pastry Chef. As part of the demanding role, she lead a team of 34 bakers working in a kitchen that is open 24/7. The Emirati-born Al Awadhi left Burj Al Arab in 2021. At the moment she is busy passing on her expertise to aspirational pastry chefs while teaching an in-demand pastry module at a college in Dubai.