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DUBAI: Elia Kaady, head chef at Saudi fine-dining restaurant Maiz, may never have made a career of cooking if it wasn’t for his brother. 

“Everyone probably has a person who inspires them to build a better a better future for themselves. For me, that’s my brother, who’s also a chef. He was the one who supported our family and took care of almost everything. So, I was inspired by him. Of course, I had a passion for food, but it’s mostly due to him,” Kaady tells Arab News. 

Kaady began his career in Beirut, working at a wide variety of restaurants including La Posta, Burgundy, and SUD Rest-Bar. He then moved to Saudi Arabia. 

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The menu is inspired by recipes and ingredients from across Saudi Arabia’s various regions. (Supplied)

Now he’s running the kitchen at Maiz, which opened its doors last summer in Riyadh’s upmarket Bujairi Terrace. The menu is inspired by recipes and ingredients from across Saudi Arabia’s various regions. 

“It’s a Saudi restaurant that provides high-end, authentic and uplifted dishes in a beautiful location,” Kaady says. 

During Ramadan, the restaurant is offering a Chef’s Suhoor Table, where diners have the chance to engage with the chef, ask questions, and gain insights into the menu and culinary inspirations behind each dish. 

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Maiz opened its doors last summer in Riyadh’s upmarket Bujairi Terrace. (Supplied)

“The Chef’s Suhoor Table offers a great immersive experience for all the local Saudis and for all the foreigners as well,” Kaady says. 

Here, the chef discusses shawarmas, his favorite dish to cook, and his management style.   

Q: When you started out what was the most common mistake you made? 

A: There were many challenges, especially when I was studying in the mornings at culinary school and working late nights in a restaurant. The main thing was getting the heat right — working with the stove was one of the biggest challenges. When you cook fish, or beef, or lamb, you have to get the heat exactly right. 

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During Ramadan, the restaurant is offering a Chef’s Suhoor Table, where diners have the chance to engage with the chef, ask questions, and gain insights into the menu and culinary inspirations behind each dish. (Supplied)

What’s your top tip for amateur chefs?  

Be patient. Rushing can cause you to lose your passion. Especially if you get something wrong the first few times; you will lose hope. For sure, speed can be important in the kitchen, but when it comes to doing it well, organization is the most important thing. 

What one ingredient can instantly improve any dish? 

Olive oil, or extra virgin olive oil. It’s a major element in Mediterranean cuisine. I belong to Lebanon, so I feel olive oil uplifts the taste of the dishes to another level. Moreover, it’s an essential part of our daily routine in the Middle East. 

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Halloumi skewers. (Supplied)

When you go out to eat, what’s your favorite cuisine? 

Mediterranean is one of my favorites. But I also love Middle Eastern street food, which is famous worldwide. I love beef shawarmas. Each bite reminds me of my childhood. The sourness of the tomatoes, the parsley, the julienned onions and the tahina sauce take me to a different space. It’s so simple. 

And when you’re eating out, do you find yourself critiquing the food? 

Honestly, yes; I do do that sometimes. Being a chef, or being in the food industry, does make you a critical person.  

What’s a common mistake you find other restaurants making? 

The issue I find in a lot of places is that the food is unsalted or unseasoned. 

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The Maiz Business Iftar. (Supplied)

What’s your go-to dish if you have to cook something quickly at home? 

OK, let’s go simple again. In 20 minutes, I could have crispy French fries and tabouleh salad —adding some slices of red chili makes it taste very different. This combination makes me really happy. 

What’s your favorite dish to cook?   

I love making pasta dishes. Italian dishes are very rich but use just a few simple ingredients like tomato, olive oil, ricotta cheese, basil, garlic and eggplant. You could add pine nuts too. A dish like this will make my day. 

What customer request most annoys you?  

When a customer asks me to make sure their chicken is well-cooked. I know meat needs to be cooked properly. 

As a head chef, what are you like? Do you shout a lot? Or are you quite laid back?   

In this industry, we’re under constant pressure — we have to give our guests the best experience. And to keep a good environment in the kitchen, the staff must behave well. I believe it can be necessary to shout a bit; it’s another tool with the employees to have the rules followed in the kitchen all the way. 

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