Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh at Kingdom Centre
- Kingdom Centre, P.O. Box 231000, Riyadh, 11321, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Junior Sous Chef
Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 2013
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Cook, Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh at Kingdom Centre
- French Corner, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
- Diploma, Food and Drink Development, Alhokair High Institute, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
- Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
- Arabic, English
“My vision is to make Saudi cuisine in a modern way,” says Anas Alsulayyim on what keeps him busy, and locals and travellers coming back for more, as Junior Sous Chef at Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh at Kingdom Centre. “The dishes and culture behind them are what I was raised on. They’re what nourished our ancestors. I feel like I have a great opportunity to share my love for Saudi food and take it as far as I can.”
Alsulayyim is a rarity on the luxury hospitality scene in Saudi Arabia, where it is almost unheard of for men to pursue culinary careers. Though his work in the Hotel’s kitchen includes other cuisines – the global menu of Elements, and inspired takes on meat and seafood for The Grill – he is most excited about elevating what Saudis eat daily. “The flavours and preparation techniques are so unique. It can be difficult to master the details, but the taste is so distinctive, it’s worth it.”
Presentation is key to modernization, he says, noting the perfectly plated spins he puts on Kabsa, a traditional rice dish peppered with Saudi spices like cumin, coriander, and black lemon and served with lamb or camel, as well as Qursan, a gravy-saturated brown bread, traditionally served with vegetables and protein that he takes over the top with French culinary techniques.
Alsulayyim gets support and inspiration from the talent in the kitchen. The Hotel’s culinary team is “like family,” and he makes a priority of keeping everyone close and focused by building confidence and encouraging growth. “We operate as one,” he says, of the importance of correcting mistakes in a positive way. “For me, it’s about showing people that they have my support and that together we can do great things.”
His positivity extends to the clientele. One Saudi National Day, Alsulayyim presented an exclusive Saudi Fusion Menu at the Hotel’s restaurants, and guests came away appreciative and impressed. Meanwhile, he regularly roams tables in the dining spaces to ensure that everyone is enjoying themselves as much as their food. “Many of our guests are from Riyadh or the Gulf. They really love seeing a Saudi chef in action: When we make them happy, they let me know it.”
Born and raised in the Saudi capital, Alsulayyim grew up inspired by his mother’s cooking, but his early forays in the kitchen weren’t very successful. “I actually burned ramen noodles, which is not easy to do.” That changed when he enrolled in a hotel management institute run by a major Saudi-based hospitality and entertainment group. His original thought was to study accounting, but when he took prerequisite courses that included the basics of cooking, something clicked.
“I immediately fell for it,” he remembers, adding that he was impressed as much with the school’s instructors as with the curriculum. “Everything changed for me: The kitchen became my passion.”
While at school, Alsulayyim met a recruiter from Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh, who was impressed and told him, “one day you will be working with me.” After becoming the school’s first culinary graduate, he set career goals for himself, including increasing his knowledge of other cuisines (he focused on Chinese, Indian, and Italian), and mastering at least one of them (he chose Italian).
He has also set out to become respected in his own right as a Saudi chef on the global stage, inspired by Saudi Vision 2030, the Kingdom’s mission to become more international and expand public service sectors, including tourism. “My personal goal,” he says, “is to show our culinary capabilities to tourists that visit from around the world, and to be sure that Saudi cuisine gets the attention it deserves.”
After joining Four Seasons, Alsulayyim polished his skills on task force assignments at company properties in Dubai, Cap-Ferrat, and Bahrain. In 2015, he was honoured as Best Young Chef with a Saudi Excellence in Tourism award. He also brought home gold medals from culinary competitions in 2016 and 2017: The first for Saudi cuisine; the second for a tasty burger. Then, in 2018, he appeared on Top Chef Middle East and finished in the Top 10 with a Beef Wellington-like version of Qursan. “A challenge I won was to prepare a traditional dish in a modern way,” he remembers. “The head judge, who was Michelin-starred, told me he would put the dish on his menu any day.”
Long since right at home with Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh, Aluslayyim remains in awe of where his unusual career has taken him and looks forward to how far he’ll go with it. For others in Saudi Arabia searching for similar direction, he offers simple advice: “If you want to excel in a certain field, continue working at it, and you will succeed.”