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Saudi women chefs in high demand amid tourism season

The Ministry encourages and supports women employment in various fields as long as her work does not contravene Islamic teachings. (File photo: AP)

With the tourism season starting, hotels are requesting the Ministry of Labor to allow them to employ Saudi women as chefs, Al-Riyadh reported.

Eastern Province Ministry of Labor Recruitment Director Omair Al-Zahrani said the ministry always encourages and supports women employment in various fields as long as her work does not contravene Islamic teachings and her nature as a woman.

He said: “The ministry has constricting regulations on women working in hotels because there has been a record of hotels violating the ministry’s regulations on women employment.

“Hotels have employed women as receptionists, forcing them to interact with men.”

He said women may work in places where they are not obliged to constantly deal with men, they have their own entrances and exits to the workplace and they have their own rest rooms and facilities.

“The ministry’s regulations do not prohibit women working as chefs at a hotel as long as her work environment is clear of men and she has the freedom to use the rest rooms available for her,” said Al-Zahrani.

Gulf Tourism Committee member and former Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry tourism committee head Abdullah Al-Qahtani said the chambers of commerce and industry always support women’s employment.

He said: “The role of women in society and the labor market has become vital. Women entering the hospitality industry is a good move toward social development.

“With the right training and exposure, women’s involvement will raise the quality of our hotels to an international standard. However, hotels must cooperate and abide by the ministry’s regulations.”

Al-Khobar InterContinental Hotel services employee Hisham Al-Shammary said they have never received applications from Saudi women wanting to work as chefs.

He said: “Our current chef is a foreigner with many years of experience. He can cook dishes from various parts of the world and not just local dishes. “This is important to us as 75 percent of our guests are foreigners who may not like local dishes.

“That’s the only advantage our chef has over Saudi women who are talented in the kitchen.

“We might need Saudi chefs whenever we have a particular occasion where we need local dishes.”

He added they do have a Saudi event planner working for the hotel. “The criteria for a chef in our hotel are very challenging for most Saudi women.

“If they want to become chefs at InterContinental they must be able to produce various dishes from all around the world because our employment policy is the international employment policy of the hotel.”

Rihan said she runs her own homemade food business in Dammam and would like to work in hotels as a chef.

She said: “I prepare a variety of dishes for my customers. I would like to expand my outreach as I mainly cater to my neighborhood.

“I didn’t know that hotels were looking for Saudi women chefs so I never really applied.”

She added with the right training Saudi women have the potential to be more qualified than foreign chefs as they understand the tricks of the trade already and they just need to be exposed to a variety of ingredients and tastes.

Samar Mohammad said she also runs a homemade food business but would like to join the job market and work at a hotel.

She said: “I have applied to many hotels and places. There is a stigma against Saudi women working as chefs in hotels.

“They always believe more in the foreign chef who has exotic taste and years of experience.

“Hotels do not want to put in the time and effort to train us when I have the right to be employed as a citizen.”

She added that her profits from her home business are good enough to provide her with a decent living but she wants to make a career out of her hobby.

She said: “If we were able to work in hotels, especially international ones, the national cooking industry will leap in quality and experience. “Saudi society will have better food quality in any other services such as school cafeterias.”

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Last Update: Monday, 29 June 2015 KSA 13:05 - GMT 10:05
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Saudi women chefs in high demand amid tourism season
The Ministry encourages and supports women employment in various fields as long as her work does not contravene Islamic teachings
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