Introducing Chef Faisal Al Deleigan, Served Magazine’s latest contributor.
Faisal Al Deleigan is a Banker, a world-renowned Chef, consultant, and a humanitarian soul at heart.
“Listen to your instinct and follow your heart”. This is the mantra of Chef Faisal who believes in following your passions. Faisal courageously left a highly paid job and gave up a successful, 10-year banking career to follow his passion for cooking. This love for food paved his way to becoming a successful culinary expert and consultant.
Faisal is now a world-renowned Chef and runs a highly successful F&B business: Chef Faisal Consultancy in Saudi Arabia. For the past 12 years he has mentored and tutored business owners of restaurants across; fast food, casual and fine dining sectors in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
What is your fondest food memory?My fondest food memory harks back to my childhood when I was just 10 years old. We were lucky enough to only ever eat home-cooked food back then. I was with my neighbour one day and decided to explore the area around us, and this shawarma roll caught my eye for the first time. The sight of it made my mouth water. I had no money to buy one and was too scared to have to ask my parents, so I saved up my school lunch money until one day I had enough to buy a sandwich. It was the greatest experience tasting something new and exploring food like that.
What was your childhood kitchen like, and who did the cooking?Our kitchen was very modest, consisting of only one thin counter, a small range cooker and a tiny fridge. My mum did all the cooking back then, and she took great pride in it. Mum absolutely adores cooking for her family; she has always cooked with love, and I was brought up to do the same. So, while the kitchen itself was small, our passion for food was immense!
What or who inspires you most?I am inspired by lots of people but none more so than my family (my wife and two kids). Everything I do is for them; they inspire me in every step I take, and they’ve always kept me going when things have been tough.
What are the pillars of Saudi Arabian cuisine, and how do they show up (if at all) in your cooking today?The main characteristic of Saudi food is slow cooking, and there is no doubt that this is often a feature of my dishes. Another essential aspect of Saudi cuisine is the notion that rich in flavour doesn’t mean having loads of ingredients, rather that it is rich in taste. I would like to think that this is also reflected in my cooking!
What’s your current favourite meal to eat out? And where?Lately I have been getting into the Slow Food movement, so rather than eating out, my focus is to simply associate the pleasure of food with a commitment to my community and the environment.
What’s your ‘must-have’ ingredient?If you’d have asked me this question years ago, I would have said my ‘must-have’ was butter or meat, and my opinion used to alternate between the two. However, with all the experience I’ve accumulated over recent years, I can say with all certainty that it’s salt.
How would you describe your unique style in 3 words?Creative, balanced and sophisticated (yet simple). Sorry, it’s hard to describe my style in three words!
What’s your signature dish?They say I am a salad master, so I would probably say that salad is my signature dish. I enjoy bringing out the pizzazz of an impressive and special dish just using simple ingredients.
What’s your guilty food pleasure?I love a great juicy burger, but it certainly does leave me feeling somewhat guilty.
Can you share some top tips or kitchen hacks? (For example for food waste management or time-saving in the kitchen)I don’t really have any hacks, but certainly the biggest tip I can give you is that food preparation and having an organised kitchen are key to saving lots of time in the kitchen. Prep may seem like a dull part of cooking, but if you plan well you will be more relaxed as you cook, you will enjoy the process and the end result will likely be tastier!
What words of advice would you give to your past self as a banker considering the career change?I would tell my past self, ‘Keep going, you’re doing well.’ I do not regret any of my steps in life, even the failures, as all these steps helped to shape me into who I am now. I have learned a lot from all my past experiences, and I think they have made me a more rounded person. There is always more to learn, though, and I’m looking forward to new experiences and challenges in the future.
What are your career ambitions?To be one of the best consultants in the world in my field.
Read Served Issue 21 online for Chef Faisal’s Recipes + more