Meera Alnaqbi crowned the inaugural Gulfood YouthX winner
Meera Eisa Alnaqbi was recently crowned the inaugural Gulfood YouthX winner after beating out the other three finalists. The triumph sees the young Emirati chef joining Deni Srdoč, Executive Chef at the Nebo, at the Hilton Costabella Resort & Spa in Rijeka, Croatia. Meera is spending two weeks working with Chef Srdoč and his team at the Michelin-star restaurant. As well as the all-expenses paid trip, Meera won a 25 percent scholarship for training at Dubai College of Tourism’s Culinary Arts Programme, which was awarded to the other finalists too.
“Participating in the YouthX challenge as an Emirati woman was inspiring and empowering to help me advance my future in the culinary world,” the up-and-coming culinary whizz said after her winning performance.
Top local talent was was given a chance to shine in the first-ever edition of Gulfood Youth X, a new dedicated programme at the Gulfood show, which has established a position as the world’s largest annual F&B sourcing event. The new addition aims to empower young talent in the industry.
For 2022, the 27th edition of the mega annual event, which took place at the Dubai World Trade Centre, Gulfood teamed up with global hospitality brand Hilton and Dubai College of Tourism to launch YouthX. With the first edition focusing on young Emirati culinary creatives, over 100 Emirati chefs applied, 16 went on to be shortlisted and five of the promising talents made it to the semi-finals. Following a strong competition, the finalists, including Nazpari Azari, who came in fourth, third place winner Abdulla AlShawab and Sara Mohamed Alshehhi, the runner-up, went head-to-head. They were put through their paces in a live kitchen environment. The young food lovers vyng for the top prize were mentored by Kasdi Dahari, Executive Chef, Hilton Palm Jumeirah, who trained a team of young chefs to seven gold medals in the 2021 Chefs’ Table Competition. The quartet were faced with a judging panel featuring masters of cuisine for the chance to win a career-changing opportunity with Hilton.
“The Gulfood YouthX platform is important because it is a showcase of what it is like to work in the culinary and hospitality industries, both of which are important here in the UAE,” Emma Banks, Vice President, F&B Strategy and Development, EMEA, Hilton, said. “We support the pillars of tourism and gastronomy with a sustainable workforce, so that also involves getting young Emiratis exposed to culinary and hospitality with the hope that they fall in love.”
Gulfood 2022 also featured the inaugural Gulfood Zero Waste Awards, which awarded future-focused changemakers for their drive and determination to tackle a growing food industry challenge.The zero-waste heroes, including global hospitality leaders, local schools, and homegrown change movements, were crowned as part of Gulfood’s drive to transform agenda to action. In line with the overarching aim of the awards to tackle waste, the winners each had a ghaf tree planted in their honour in the Jebel Ali desert instead of receiving a trophy.