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AlumniWhat it takes to be a female chef in Saudi Arabia

Freshly graduated from Culinary Arts Academy Switzerland, Malak Karakotly has already landed a feature interview in a local Saudi Arabian magazine. Beyond her talent and work ethic, she is a woman – and this makes her unique in the industry in this country.

Although Malak is Saudi, she grew up in Egypt and is working for the first time in her birth country at the 5-star property Rocco Forte in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. An eye-opening experience, Malak shares the challenges and opportunities being a chef as a woman in Saudia Arabia can bring.

How rare is it to be a female chef in Saudi Arabia?

In the past it has been very rare to see women working in the hotel industry, but the government is working toward making changes.

Thanks to a government initiative more Saudi women are being hired directly from high school and trained in the hotels themselves but it remains very rare for a Saudi woman to have a culinary education.

 Malak Korakotly  Culinary Arts Academy Switzerland with a Post-Graduate Diploma.

Did you know that your journey to become a chef would be difficult?

It took me a very long time to convince my parents that I wanted to study Culinary Arts. In the end, it was my Grandmother who gave me the support both financially and emotionally that I needed. She brought me to Switzerland herself and paid the fees for my schooling. It was thanks to her, my parents finally said yes.

Are you treated differently as a woman in the industry?

Yes, I feel there is a difference in the way I am treated because I am a woman. I feel it most strongly from the locals who often don’t take working women seriously and can be known to view women in the workplace as simply a way for us to pass time and make friends. Slowly, I hope this will change with the new government initiative in place and more women are able to discover their passions.

Do you feel that you are at an advantage with your Culinary Arts degree?

The knowledge that I bring with me from Switzerland is definitely an advantage for me. The locals that are trained in the kitchens are recruited directly from high school. Although they can master the technical skills, I see a knowledge gap in the understanding the methodology behind certain skills. I believe it is this understanding of the method that helps me the most in the kitchen and helps set me apart.

Malak Korakotly  Culinary Arts Academy Switzerland with a Post-Graduate Diploma.

What was your experience like at Culinary Arts Academy Switzerland in Lucerne?

Being at Culinary Arts Academy was the first time I felt I belonged. Even though there were so many different nationalities, there was a very strong sense of family.

Looking back now, I especially appreciate the way the chefs taught us by putting us in high pressure situations. They truly showed us how to survive in the real world. I’m not sure I would be able to survive in this industry if I didn’t have the training I received.

What is the next step for you in your career?

As a young woman in the field with an international education, I believe that I am in a good position to help change the way people view this career path. I am very proud of what I have accomplished and want to showcase through hard work that becoming a chef as a woman is possible for them too. I am passionate for this industry, and I want to show the Arab world there is so much more to being a chef than just cooking!

Culinary Arts Academy Switzerland with a Post-Graduate Diploma.

Malak Korakotly graduated in 2018 from Culinary Arts Academy Switzerland with a Post-Graduate Diploma.

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