Saudi’s NEOM unveils plan to train chefs for 'world's most food self-sufficient city'

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Saudi Arabia’s $500 billion mega project NEOM has announced an initiative to inspire and nurture a new generation of Saudi chefs as part of its ambitious goal to become “the world’s most food self-sufficient city”.

NEOM has partnered with ethical food project CARE’s, a global project founded by Italian chefs Norbert Niederkofler and Paolo Ferretti, on a new initiative to ensure the food supply at the Red Sea project is treated responsibly from the planet to the plate.

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It falls under NEOM’s ethos to be a “blueprint for tomorrow in which humanity progresses without compromise to the health of the planet” and part of its ambitious plans – in a country which currently imports about 80 percent of its food - to become ”the world’s most food self-sufficient city” by utilizing innovative vertical farming and greenhouses.

OXAGON, a city in NEOM, Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
OXAGON, a city in NEOM, Saudi Arabia. (SPA)

NEOM and CARE’s will develop a manifesto for food-industry professionals, outlining the principles for sustainable gastronomy and food security, alongside educational initiatives and content to broaden understanding of healthy eating.

With a commitment to nurturing Saudi talent, the partnership will facilitate training opportunities and chef camps, as well as launch an award series to recognize leading examples of innovation in food systems.

Dr. Juan Carlos Motamayor, executive director of NEOM Food Sector, said the food sector plays an essential role in every economy and the lack of a food security strategy leads to potential national security risks for countries. That translates into a threat to economic growth.

The food sector, he said, is so important for NEOM precisely because it plans to be the “land of the future and a special economic zone”. The ambition, he said, is to demonstrate how regions with challenging environmental conditions can become independent and self-sufficient in terms of food.

“In an era marked by the challenges of climate change and food insecurity, NEOM is committed to developing groundbreaking food solutions, with the support of our industry partners and specialists,” he said. “Working with Norbert and the CARE’s program gives us the opportunity to demonstrate, develop and implement locally adapted modern food practices that both meet the nutritional needs of consumers in NEOM and the Kingdom and preserve our planet.”

NEOM aims to have the first integrated system aiming for food self-sufficiency in a desert environment. In a world facing climate change and water scarcity, Motamayor said it is necessary to prepare communities that currently face or will face extreme temperatures and drought to become food self-sufficient.

“We aim to be a testbed for companies looking to develop the products and services that will become mainstream globally in the coming years, as countries enforce strict sustainability regulations. And we know that in response to climate change, consumers are also becoming more environmentally and health-conscious. Our legacy-free regulatory framework will enable us to deliver on our ambitions.”

CARE’s brings together chefs, inspirational entrepreneurs and professionals from the food industry who all share the goal of promoting the use of locally sourced ingredients and sustainable food practices that are in harmony with nature.

At present, the program includes over 150 chefs in more than 25 countries, who act as ambassadors across the globe and support a wide variety of initiatives and engagement opportunities that will establish a sustainable approach to gastronomy.

Norbert Niederkofler, co-founder of CARE’s, said: “Through this partnership, CARE’s has an opportunity to not only create a foundation for a more ethical and sustainable approach to gastronomy in the Kingdom, but also to help nurture Saudi talent to drive innovation in food.”

“Between CARE’s network of international multidisciplinary ambassador chefs and NEOM’s food-industry specialists, technological capabilities and commitment to innovation, we’re confident we can create impactful change that benefits the Kingdom and the rest of the world.”

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