A number of special awards were handed out at the first-ever edition of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) 50 Best Restaurants, which was recently held in Abu Dhabi. And Emirati chef Sahar Parham Al Awadhi was one of the talents credited with making an impact on the world of gastronomy in the region. At the ceremony, Al Awadhi, who made headlines as the first woman and Emirati chef to work at Dubai’s iconic Burj Al Arab hotel, made history again as the first winner of the best pastry chef in the MENA region. The prize, sponsored by Valrhona, aims to recognize and reward talent and excellence in the fields of service and pastry. It is voted by more than 200 independent restaurant industry experts and traveling foodies from across the region.
As well as concocting some very beautiful desserts, be it Umm Ali, Logaimat or Vanilla Cheesecake, Al Awadhi, one of the few female pastry chefs in the UAE, reflects on their stories and origins . Inspired by tastes that reflect her upbringing and heritage, she advocates the use of high quality local produce and supports the people of her country whenever she can. Another way for the former Burj Al Arab pastry chef to ensure maximum flavor is to source products from countries known for their specialties, whether it be his butters and creams from France, cinnamon from India or Iranian saffron. Additionally, Al Awadhi, who obviously thrives on the high-pressure cooking scene, is passionate about sustainability, biodiversity and food safety.
About Sahar Parham Al Awadhi
Growing up in a family that always enjoyed bonding over fabulous meals, Al Awahadi has always had a zeal for food and baking. However, she didn’t pursue a career in culinary art and science before trying her hand at something else. She landed her first job at Zayed University, where she worked as a branding and social media manager after graduating in communications and design management from the American University of Sharjah.
Once the hardworking Al Awadhi discovered her calling for fine dining, she took a leap of faith and found a job as a pastry clerk at La Serre Bistro & Boulangerie, where she worked alongside mentor Izu Ani. Noticing his talents, Ani, one of Dubai’s most respected chefs, sends him to Paris to hone his baking skills.
After her experience in the French capital, notably at Saint Georges, Al Awahadi returned to La Serre for a year before joining Burj Al Arab, where she began as a junior sous-chef in 2016. Al Awadhi quickly rose through the ranks, and by In 2019 , she was named Pastry Chef. In this demanding role, she led a team of 34 bakers working in a 24/7 open kitchen. Al Awadhi, born in the Emirates, left Burj Al Arab in 2021. At the moment, she is busy imparting her expertise to ambitious pastry chefs while teaching a high-demand pastry module at a college in Dubai.