How Saudi chef Nour Al-Zaben transforms the country's culinary scene

DUBAI: In 2018, Saudi chef and food advisor Nour Al-Zaben single-handedly revived a small, outdated concept in Jeddah, now known as Urb Kitchen, which would establish itself as one of the trendiest restaurants in the Kingdom.

The young chef earned her stripes as a professional chef shortly after graduating from the prestigious Cordon Bleu culinary school in Paris, refurbishing and overhauling a number of restaurants throughout Saudi Arabia. By the time she finished her professional education, Al-Zaben was the brainchild behind hotspots’ menus such as the Riyad’s Poké Bowl.

Al-Zaben first discovered her passion for cooking at the age of 14, during her time at a boarding school in Lebanon. Without the culinary help of her family, the flourishing chef had to take care of herself in the kitchen. She took care of herself and her younger siblings when they were nine and eleven years old, and occasionally called her mother for recipes.


Although he has a natural aptitude for cooking, Al-Zaben would never have thought of pursuing it as a career. (Supplied)

“I called my mother, grandmother, or the nanny who used to cook for us to ask how I could make certain recipes that I missed or dishes my brother wanted,” Al-Zaben shared with Arab News.

It wasn’t long before Al-Zaben’s classmates started enjoying the lunches and dinners she cooked. “It became a bit of a thing,” she explained. “I started cooking for people who didn’t have a family at the boarding school.”

But despite a natural aptitude for cooking, Al-Zaben would have thought “never in a million years” to pursue it as a career.

“It was no ordinary career path for Arab girls at the time,” she explained. “It was looked down a bit.”

After a lot of persuasion, she managed to convince her parents to register for a culinary school. (Supplied)

Only when one of the chef’s friends decided to go to the culinary school did Al-Zaben start with the idea of ​​cooking as a career path.

“After I graduated, I realized I didn’t want to work on a desk job for the rest of my life,” she thought. “After much persuasion, I was able to convince my parents to allow me to enroll in a culinary school.”

What’s next? Well, you can expect the chef to appear on your small screen in February.

Although Al-Zaben could not share too many details, she revealed that she is currently filming a travel and cooking program that wants to introduce the Saudi public to different cultures and cuisines around the world, while showing the world what the kingdom should offer .

View this space.

. (TagsToTranslate) Jubail