August 8, 2022

For ICCA Student Chef Kumi King learning is all about inspiring and challenging oneself…

The journey of ICCA Student Chef Kumi King proves that food is more than just cooking, it  actually is the ultimate language to connect and share with the different people around. 

ICCA Dubai Batch 160 Student Chef Kumi King doesn’t belong to the very typical group of student chefs who would use words like ‘passion’ and ‘passionate’ to describe her culinary journey. For her, cooking is a life skill that not only uses the language of food to reach and connect with people from diverse cultural backgrounds but is also a means to constantly challenge oneself.  

It was this thinking that eventually led her to pursue professional diploma programs in cookery as well as baking & patisserie in ICCA Dubai where student chefs from over 20 countries come to learn the art of cooking and baking. Kumi's calm and learning-focused approach to cooking can be traced to where she comes from. She hails from Japan, a country that is rooted in a culture that strives for perfectionism and dedication to work and also expresses itself vividly through food.   

Brought up in a typical Japanese household that revered good, healthy home-cooked food, Kumi developed a deep interest in cooking very early on. "I used to help my mother prepare Japanese dishes. She enjoyed cooking and even took amateur cooking classes to improve her skills. It was very inspiring to watch her dedication and interest in cooking. Also, my father was a food connoisseur, and he often took us to restaurants – from fine dining to casual dining—to experience all kinds of dishes. I think my parent's interest in good food buoyed my interest in cooking."  

Even though her inspiration to cook was homegrown it was only when she was thrust into a foreign land that she realized how cooking and food were going to be her main solace and also the language to connect with an unknown culture.   

"After completing my high school in Japan I attended my University in the United States. During my time in the States as a student, it was hard to find Japanese food, and I grew homesick. The language was a barrier too. So I would await my mother's parcels of Japanese ingredients and I would cook my favourite Japanese dishes; soon I started sharing these dishes with my roommates and other dormitory friends. In time, food made up for my struggles with English as it became my language to make friends."  

Heartened by this experience and also bolstered by the popularity of the hospitality sector, Kumi moved to Europe where she pursued a Hotel management course and entered the hospitality industry in the Front Office department. Later, after getting married, she reignited her interest in cooking and rediscovered her love of sharing food and her knowledge of Japanese cooking, mainly due to her husband's work life that involved travelling and staying in different countries.. "We kept moving every few years. During this time, food and cooking were the only constants. I started taking home cooking classes to brush up on my skills and also chose to share what I have learned with a pool of expatriates from different countries. I soon realized that I enjoyed teaching than mere cooking for myself and my family. I got a lot of joy out of sharing my learning with others. At the same time,  it also made me realize the value of constantly learning and updating myself. One can never be complacent. There is so much to learn and master in culinary arts that I feel like I'm always on a learning curve."  

And that was her main motivation to join ICCA Dubai. "Even though I had done a hotel management course and spent 10 years in the Front Office, I have never worked in a kitchen. Both fields are different from each other. So, when I was perusing courses in cookery and baking, I came across ICCA Dubai, and I was very impressed with the facility and the faculty, and I felt that it would be the right place to improve and hone my culinary skills," She said.  

Her ICCA Journey 

 Kumi's ICCA journey began on a challenging note, mainly due to her choice of program. "I have always been focussed on cooking savoury dishes. Baking intimidated me. Yet I decided to join the professional program in Baking and Patisserie to challenge myself."  

Recounting her journey at ICCA, Kumi said, "I come from a culture where meticulousness, precision, and being detail oriented is particularly important, but baking takes these capabilities to another level. It was incredibly challenging at first. Our chef instructors do push us to do our best; slowly but steadily, I started getting better."   

Today Kumi has realized what goes into plating those beautiful desserts and dishes. "It is no easy task, so it is important to be focused and disciplined.  Teamwork is key as well and you really must be stubborn and tenacious in a positive way that you cannot give up. It takes time to see results, especially in pastry. You must constantly practise mastering the techniques. Above all, one must remember that there are no shortcuts in baking."  

While she has signed up for the Industry Internships/Work Placements (IWP) program which specially trains and equips students in industry best practices for work placement in the hospitality industry globally, her goal is not to become an executive chef but to use her experience to teach aspiring chefs. "Teaching is what I want to do eventually. I realized it long ago when I started sharing my knowledge of Japanese home cooking with expatriates and conducting online cooking classes and this interest has only gained impetus while learning new culinary techniques and skillset at ICCA."  

Today, Kumi is inching toward finishing her professional courses at ICCA Dubai and is primed to fulfil her culinary teaching goals.   

ICCA Student Chef Kumi King's journey highlights the fact that she has stood true to the Five Ps of the learnings for life at ICCA Dubai– Passion, Persistence Performance, Perfection, and Patience for success in life. 


July 18, 2022

Learning never stops for ICCA Dubai Batch 152 Student Chef Rouh Abou Zahr

The journey of food entrepreneur and social media influencer Rouh Abou Zahr proves that cooking is a vast ocean and the more one immerses in it, the more one can gain and learn.

Years ago, if you met Rouh Abou Zahr and told her that one day she would be happy waking up at 5 am to go to cook, she would have laughed at you and brushed away this statement as absolutely impossible. But come 2021-2022, this social media influencer, mother, and an established food entrepreneur managed to surprise herself big time.

First, she took a big leap from her successful catering business and enrolled herself in the professional diploma program in cookery at ICCA Dubai; second, she became a morning person (not an easy task for a nocturnal bird like her); and third, she managed to juggle her family duties effectively and seamlessly (which included caring for a toddler), managing a business and completing a grueling and intensive cooking program.

But, for this Batch 152 ICCA Dubai student chef, the seeds of pursuing her culinary dreams were sown in her childhood. “My grandmother was a superb cook. As a child I used to really look forward to her diverse range of dishes she used to prepare—from Kafta bil Suniyi to Kunafa, her dishes were so timeless and full of flavor that I use the same in my catering business.”

Her grandmother alone wasn’t her inspiration; Rouh’s father was a major connoisseur of good food. “The trips that we took were never centered on mere fun and entertainment, like Disneyland or similar themed amusement parks; it was more like a food-centered where the focus was always on enjoying local cuisine. My father used to enjoy trying the local fare. And he was insistent that I do too. In fact, even as a 5-year-old, my father never allowed me to have a well-done steak; it always had to be medium-done.”

Despite having a well-developed palate in food, Rouh never pursued the culinary path until much later. “My parents were keen that I complete my degree and so I completed a degree in criminology, but it was only after I moved to Saudi Arabia that I got a chance to indulge in my passion for cooking. With jobs far and few, I decided to bake and cook at home. That was a wonderful experience for me and gave me immense confidence.”

Later, when this native of Lebanon moved to Dubai, she was completely immersed in cooking and baking. “I started my Instagram handle @soulselections and became a content curator. For the last six years. I have been reviewing food, and restaurants, building my profile as a solid influencer. But when COVID hit, my blog took a different route—I started online cooking classes for newlyweds and those who wanted to know the basics of cooking and I also started my catering business—My menu revolved around cakes, and several main dishes.”

Even though her business was going well, a thought kept niggling at her. She wanted to earn the title of a ‘Chef.’ “All my followers used to call me Chef, but I never really felt like one although I was cooking and baking professionally.”

But a chance visit to ICCA Dubai for an industry event proved to be a life-changing experience for her. There, after an interaction with one of the Chef instructors, and coaxed by her husband, Rouh made a momentous decision to join the course. “I came to ICCA Dubai, and I had a word with Chef Sergio, one of the Chef instructors who was very encouraging and told me that ICCA Dubai was the place for someone like me who was passionate about food and cooking. Even my husband said that I deserved to be in ICCA Dubai. It felt like a sign.”

It was not smooth sailing for Rouh from the get-go at ICCA Dubai. “Within two weeks, I regretted the decision—during theory classes and while doing mundane chores like washing the dishes, I found myself questioning my decision. But by the end of the month, I had found my rhythm. I learned a lot—new techniques, cooking methods—it was singularly eye-opening, and I found myself waking up earlier just to get to ICCA Dubai and start cooking! Such is the experience that ICCA Dubai offers.”

It is no surprise then that Rouh’s extraordinary passion for cooking and learning paid off as she was awarded the Chef of the Batch certificate. “Earning the title of a Chef was such a proud moment for me but what I gained from the course was so much more. ICCA Dubai became like my second home and my classmates became my family.” This personable mother of a toddler said, her voice quivering with emotion.

Completing the professional diploma in cookery from ICCA Dubai was not the end of the road for Rouh; during the program, she had participated in an exciting meat training demonstration and competition organized by the Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), an industry-recognized marketing and research body that works closely with the Australian government and the meat and livestock industries. Among the 10 ICCA students that participated in the MLA meat dish competition, her dish was chosen for the second round of the competition that included participants across the UAE, and subsequently, her dish secured second place. “It was a very challenging competition, and I trained a lot under the guidance of Chef Sergio where we were working on different cuts of meat; even though I didn’t win it, it was one helluva experience, plus I got a chance to come back to ICCA Dubai and train.” She said with a smile writ large upon her face.

Student Chef Rouh prepared Kafta Fatteh for the Education & Training session at the recently concluded WorldChefs Congress 2022.

Today, armed with her new culinary learning and experience, Rouh is all set to take her food entrepreneurship to the next level by enhancing her offerings at her catering business.

Rouh’s journey once again underlines the fact that she has stood true to the Five Ps of the learnings for life at ICCA Dubai– Passion, Persistence Performance, Perfection, and Patience for success in life.

June 20, 2022

ICCA Student Chefs shine at the World Chefs Congress 2022

There is a famous quote that says that great cooking is about being inspired by the simple things around you: fresh markets, and various spices….

At ICCA Dubai, student chefs are given ample opportunities that extend beyond the classroom and curriculum; they receive inspiration in the form of valuable hands-on involvement in industry-centered events throughout the course and training. And the latest event that the ICCA students attended and showcased their true mettle was none other than the recently concluded globally renowned World Chefs Congress.

Around 50 ICCA student chefs got a chance to participate in this prestigious event that focused on the trends and development in sustainability, and the future of education and employment in the hospitality industry. The ICCA student chefs, namely Konen Raza, Hemaang, Laura Amelia Putri, Orville Hayden, Damilola Yinka, Parvatha Vardhini, Rosa Susan, and Shradha Rao supported the promising young chefs that participated in the global young chefs challenge 2022 and also got the opportunity to be involved in the process of preparation for such a hugely competitive event—from understanding the menu to getting an insight into the mindset of the competitor, knowledge, confidence and skills. In short, they got a glimpse into what it takes to succeed in a high-pressure situation. “It was an invaluable experience and opportunity and I learned a lot not only about cooking but also about the attitude one needs to have at such competitions,” said Student chef Laura Amelia.

ICCA student chefs also got a chance to battle it out in various culinary competitions with Faustina Chinonye Aleke,  Kumi King, and Safa participating in Savory Potato Creations by Potatoes USA; Graceson Biju John and Raja Khalil El Haddad taking part in Chicken by USAPEEC and Rouh Abou Zahra participating in Beef section. Of all the participants, Graceson Biju John, Raja Khalil El Haddad, Kumi King and Safa secured the bronze medal in their respective categories while Faustina received a Merit certificate.

ICCA Dubai caught up with Student Chef, Kumi King, one of the bronze winners of the Potatoes USA competition to get a peek into the preparation that takes to participate in a highly competitive culinary competition.

Student Chef Kumi King came up with her dish Okonomiyaki Cake, which was then fine-tuned by the ICCA Chef Instructor Nabil Bakouss. “I chose a classic iconic everyday dish in Japan and gave it a twist, with the help of my instructor. We replaced the flour with potatoes, making it gluten-free and we also replaced one of the sauces used in the original dish for a better presentation while plating the dish. We also added squid in order to showcase a different cooking skill. The dish was a great way to showcase my cooking skills while staying close to my culture.” She said.

Talking about her preparation for the competition, she said, “I started preparing a month in advance and there were revisions along the way. One of the main challenges was to effectively use the three different kinds of potato products in the dish, which I believe we achieved.”

While winning the bronze medal for her dish was a wonderful outcome for Kumi, what she cherished more was the constructive feedback she received and the invaluable experience she garnered by participating in such a high-pressure competition and platform such as this. “The judges praised several aspects of the dish and even pointed out that the dish hit the nail in using the different potato products. This was very encouraging. As for me, I certainly feel this is just ä scratch on the surface of the journey that I am set to embark on and I am eager to use what I have learned, in terms of handling stress, the right attitude and cooking techniques, to do better in the future.

The encouraging experience shared by Student Chef Kumi King once again reiterated and underlined ICCA Dubai’s quality education through application-focused, outcome-driven training that pushes students to their maximum capabilities and helps them unlock their true potential in their culinary journey beyond school...

April 18, 2022

Life comes to a full circle for ICCA Dubai Batch 129 Student Chef Ameena Farhah

Young Chef Ameena Farhah’s journey is of sheer passion and grit. Despite personal hurdles, she managed to pursue her dream of a career in culinary arts and find a space for herself in the industry—all because she never stopped believing that little voice inside her. 

Ameena Farhah remembers the exact moment when she wanted to study in ICCA Dubai and pursue a diploma in culinary arts. Her eyes twinkle as she recounts that life-changing instant, “I was in Grade 9, and I was casually browsing the Internet when I chanced upon an advertisement put forth by ICCA Dubai. While reading the advertisement, I remember feeling very excited, and something seemed to shift inside me as I felt a little voice in my head nudging me and telling me this is what you need to do.”

But it took Ameena six years from that moment to fulfill her dream, but in all those years that passed in between, she never once stopped listening to that little voice in her head or thought of giving up on her dream.

Born in a conservative Indian Muslim family settled in the UAE, Ameena Farhah developed an interest in cooking watching her mother. She says, “My mother is a fantastic cook. She is not only adept at making traditional Indian dishes, but she would also make a diverse range of dishes. She also introduced me to different dishes from cuisines around the world.”

Despite cultivating an early interest in cooking from her mother, her parents were not keen that she pursue a career in culinary arts. “My parents felt a career in culinary art wasn’t serious enough. They wanted me to pursue more time and tested career options like a doctor or engineer.  Besides, they didn’t want me to choose a difficult life for myself.  My father, in particular, didn’t want me to take on a career that was highly demanding and stressful."

Ameena accepted her parent's wishes but she continued to nurse her dream of pursuing culinary arts. Later, while scouting for graduation courses after Year 12, she took an aptitude test. The test was a revelation as it highlighted her above-average capabilities in people management skills, language studies, areas of design and creativity. The aptitude test results gave her the confidence to persuade her parents to pursue Interior Design. “If not culinary arts, maybe Interior Design could be another option, I thought since it was a creative field. I did quite well in the Interior Design programme but my heart wasn’t in it. I could still feel the call of the career in culinary arts,” she states.

One could say that the Universe was plotting to get Ameena to continue to believe in her dream because uncannily a cake she had baked for a friend’s brother’s birthday received such terrific response that soon she was inundated with orders for birthday cakes. “It was unreal. It was almost like a sign from the Universe that this was my forte. While I felt greatly validated by this response, I didn’t pursue it. If not anything, it only strengthened my dream.”

Finally, when it was time for her to pursue her Master's degree, for one last time, she decided to check out the ICCA course again. “I remember browsing the ICCA website once again, and at that point, I was hooked. It was like an addiction, and I decided then and there I was going to pursue this dream of mine.”

After a two-hour-long conversation with the ICCA sales team, wherein she got a complete picture of the course and its offerings, she approached her father and convinced him to allow her to pursue it. “I told my father then that I would go on to do a Master’s degree after I finish the ICCA course, and he agreed.”

The ICCA Dubai Journey

Ameena’s face breaks into a huge grin as she recounts her first day at ICCA Dubai. “I remember my first day at the campus; my limbs were tingling with excitement.  It was the sheer joy of finally having my dream come true.”

But the journey ahead wasn’t without its bumps. Ameena states that in the initial weeks, she was intimidated by the sheer quality of her classmates and that she even harbored thoughts of self-doubt. “I was in awe of a lot of my classmates; some of them had some form of culinary background while I was a complete fresher. I even questioned myself whether I was good enough because I so badly wanted to succeed.”

Weeks rolled on, and Ameena’s self-doubts slowly started to melt away. She also signed up for the ICCA Dubai’s IWP program which is an industry integration program specially designed for student chefs wishing to join the industry as Professional Chefs by way of regular employment or an internship leading to a work placement. As part of the IWP program, she secured internship opportunities. Her internship at Reform & Grill at The Lakes was her first exposure to an industry kitchen and she admits how she was completely enthralled by the experience.  “I love the sheer energy of the kitchen; the pace, vibe, and once again, I knew this was exactly where I belonged.” She admits in a voice laced with sheer fervor.

ICCA Dubai’s Faculty goes an extra mile

The turning point for Ameena during her course was her Cipriani trade test which she aced and earned the distinction of being the first ICCA Dubai student to get placed in this globally-renowned restaurant. She credits the ICCA faculty for this remarkable achievement.   “I tend to be a perfectionist and often feel nothing I do is good enough which can affect my confidence. To boost my confidence and presentation & communication skills, I got extra coaching from the ICCA Faculty. This training really came in handy for my interview.”

Debunking myths surrounding culinary programs

There are several myths surrounding culinary programs like the one ICCA Dubai offers; chief among them is the course duration. On querying Ameena whether she considered three months to be sufficient for a culinary program, her answer was clear.  “I disagree with people who claim that three months is too short a time. Here, at ICCA Dubai, we receive such hands-on training. The way the curriculum is structured, we receive ought-to-know knowledge & skills that help reinforce the foundations. During the three months, I got to learn the science behind food and value technical knowledge. We gained know-how of professional kitchen etiquettes, how to be fast but accurate, among others. In the end, time is not the factor but the application-focused training one receives that matters.”

Life after ICCA Dubai

Ameena Farhah joined Cipriani as Commis Chef 1 and she was part of Cipriani’s pre-opening team.  Detailing her experience, she states, “It was an exhilarating experience. For a week, I received my training at Cipriani DIFC. After that, I joined the pre-opening team. Our schedules were very hectic—from unloading to setting up, cooking, and cleaning, we did everything. There were times we did 22-hour shifts but I enjoyed every minute of it.”

Ameena also adds that the training at ICCA Dubai also immensely helped her to cope with the pressure. “ICCA Dubai never sugarcoated anything. The faculty at ICCA Dubai would tell us exactly what to expect, the reality of the kitchen. We were never given the impression that working in the kitchen was easy. They gave us a raw account of the kitchen. This really helped me when I joined Cipriani.”

Talking about her journey forward, Ameena is emphatic that she is here to stay and be part of the industry. “Right now, I am young and energetic, and I want to continue to work in the culinary industry as long as I can. Maybe later, I will consider starting something on my own, but that’s in the distant future.”

Today her parents have accepted her decision to be part of the culinary industry. “My father no longer has any misgivings about my working in the culinary industry and he is very proud of me and my achievements.” As she takes assuring steps up the culinary ladder, she is also thankful that she listened to that voice in her head that told her to never give up on pursuing her culinary dream.

The journey of Ameena Farhah, a student of Batch 129 who completed the professional Cookery course on March 31st, 2021, and joined Cipriani in April 2021, is compelling proof of the fact that she has stood true to the Five Ps of the learnings for life at ICCA Dubai– Passion, Persistence Performance, Perfection, and Patience for success in life.

To learn more about ICCA Dubai's professional diploma programs, click here.

May 10, 2020

The Journey of an Award Winning Young Chef and Entreprenuer

When Rushad Wadia, the owner and chef at The Greedy Man Pizzeria started his own pizzeria soon after graduating from the International Centre for Culinary Arts, Dubai, little did he know what success had in store for him.

Rushad is still in awe when he talks about how his "one little idea" like how he refers to the pizzeria, managed to bag the Times Food Noteworthy Newcomer Award for 2016 which was then followed by The Best Pizzeria Award in the consecutive years.

Let's find out what Rushad has got to say about his experience with the pizzeria, awards and his journey so far as a chef and an entrepreneur.



How does it feel to be a successful entrepreneur at such a young age?

Rushad: Honestly I don’t know if I am there yet to being successful. There is so much to learn in this industry and I have just started off with one little idea hoping for it to transform into something magical. So I guess the moment I have that magical feeling is when I can call myself a successful entrepreneur.

Tell us about your Times Food Awards experiences. Did life change after your win?


Rushad: First award was a real shocker to the entire team. It had been only three months into opening the restaurant and one fine day we get a call saying that The Greedy Man has won the Prestigious New Comer Award at the Times Food Awards! I think I went blank for a few seconds but slowly it started to sink in when the awards started coming home quite often after that.

Life has changed in the most beautiful way for us after winning the awards. We started getting recognized for the different Neapolitan style of pizza that we were doing and people have now started to accept our style of pizza over the other pizzerias in the city which in itself is a huge accomplishment.

What influenced you the most in your decision to go ahead with a pizzeria?


Rushad: When the plan of starting a food joint came along, my mind said Persian Cuisine, but my heart said PIZZA! I honestly don’t know why we decided to get into the pizzeria but we are glad we did. I felt it’s a beautiful art that needs to be shown in its true form that is from making the dough from scratch to hand tossing. However, not many pizzerias are doing it in the right way here.

How is food sourced at The Greedy Man pizzeria?


Rushad: All our vegetables & Meat cuts come from the local morning market here every single day. Everything is ordered as per the number of pizzas we are making every day. We believe in Quality over Quantity and that’s why we limit ourselves to only 60 to 65 pizzas a day. We are soon going to start making our own buffalo mozzarella, so we are really excited about that.

What are the bestsellers of the pizzeria?

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Rushad: The classic Margherita and our popular Nutella Freak Shake.

How did you manage to build such confidence to embark on entrepreneurship so early in your career?

Rushad: ICCA Dubai was definitely a blessing for me. Throughout the course ICCA taught me to be focused, organized, to understand how a kitchen is and also to have a little fun now and then.


You need to be on your toes every single second during your service time. ICCA helped me with achieving a good speed in the kitchen, and most importantly the confidence and a free mentality to take some risks, and that Small Risk I took then is called “The Greedy Man Pizzeria” today.

How much are you in touch with your ICCA Alumni network?

Rushad: I am in touch with everyone. You become a family in those 3 months. We had our stupid fights during our college time but when you graduate, you come out as one batch, as one big Chef family and I am so proud of where everyone is and what they have achieved so far.

What would you look for if you were in the position to hire new graduates from ICCA Dubai?

Rushad: Someone who has a free-thinking, who is ready to take some risk and with good speed.

Do you have any advice you would like to give the students who want to become entrepreneurs like you?

Believe in yourself but most importantly believe in your product. People will come running down to criticize you but it is important that you believe in your product that you are serving.

We are extremely proud to know where our alumnus, the pride of ICCA Dubai stands in their professional lives today, and we are glad we could be a part of their culinary journey. On this note, we are wishing Rushad Wadia more success, just the way he wants it to be with his magical feeling.

April 14, 2019

The Story Of A Home-based Foodpreneur

Each student that comes to ICCA has a story to tell. Be it the love of food, or passion for cooking. Dreams fulfilled or aspirations built up, the journey is unique just as the person telling it is. Some have a natural calling to the profession, for others, it is a complete change of tracks as they discover that they are happiest when they are in the kitchen creating something that they are proud of.

I bring to you one such story of a lady who followed her heart to the ovens. Rashmi Motwani in her own words:

What got you into Baking?

Rashmi: The smell of freshly baked cake has always filled my heart with a feeling of utmost happiness. While pursuing my MBA or while working in a software firm I never thought I would get into baking.

During my free time, I used to look at various baking videos online and wondered if I would be able to make something similar. This curiosity dragged me into the kitchen and voila! Here was my first cake. Surprisingly it was pretty good! And since then I started baking on and off for my family.

What prompted you to take up a Professional Program in Baking?

Rashmi: I was baking as a hobby, but it was always a very scary feeling that I had about the final outcome. Finally, on my husband’s advice, I decided to go through a training program where I could learn more about baking and sharpen my skills.

I saw ICCA’s website and went through student’s testimonials. I also went through their pictures on Facebook. I could see the relaxed environment and high quality learning infrastructure. And I was right about both.

Can you tell us about your Experience at ICCA?

Rashmi: I joined my certificate course in patisserie and was really excited about this new journey. This course lasted for a month and it was truly the most exciting month of my life. I was a student again. It was the first time I worked in a professional kitchen. I had an opportunity to gain from the experience of chefs from across the world. I had a chance to make new friends, meet new people and learn new things. The best part about my course was that we were not asked to blindly follow a recipe and make our dish. We were taught the importance of each and every ingredient and it was explained to us in detail. Our basics were made very clear. This brought a different level of confidence in me.

What followed next?

Rashmi: I always wanted to get into some kind of business and my course at ICCA gave me a direction. I started a home-based bakery, and named it ‘Dessert in Desert’. Thanks to my clear concepts of bakery I actually started getting amazing reviews from my customers. But I didn’t want to stop learning yet and thought I should get on to the next level now. So I enrolled myself in ICCA’s sugar flower course.

How was the Sugar Flower course for you?

Rashmi: Chef Nasarene made sure we learnt even the smallest trick there is about sugar flowers. She made sure we knew how to make full utilization of our available resources. She made me turn around a ball of sugar paste into a beautiful and breathtaking form. Eventually, I learned more about attention to detail. I realized how even the smallest detail can make a huge difference to your final product.

You have participated in The Nestlé competition too. What is it about?

Rashmi: Yes, I did; an opportunity that I got at ICCA. Every year Nestlé the giant food company organises a competition to promote its products. What I made was a Jasmine Green Tea Creme Brulee with Black Sesame Macarons and Green Tea Caviar. The Chefs here helped me prepare for it.

Your Last Word..

Rashmi: ICCA has not only helped me in building my career but also improved my baking and teamwork skills. I feel I am more confident and more informed than most of the home bakers I know. I am really grateful to everyone at ICCA.



April 4, 2019

The Winner Of ‘salon Culinaire’ In The Uae

ICCA Dubai Alumni Sana Quidwai, Wins Silver at Salon Culinaire!

“It was out of the blue when I was announced as one of the winners for a Cooking Competition that I had participated in for the first time in my life”, says Sana Quidwai after winning a Silver for Live Cooking, at the Emirates Culinary Guild ’s prestigious Salon Culinaire 2016.

When Sana joined ICCA Dubai to pursue her interest in cooking as a career little did she know that she could make a mark this early in her career graph even before starting her journey as a Professional Chef.

According to Sana, it was Chef Daniel Hiltbrunner, Master Chef Instructor at ICCA Dubai who encouraged her to participate in the competition. “Chef Daniel was there from the very beginning to give me all the support I needed. As a beginner, it was only because of Chef Daniel I gained the confidence to participate in a high profile competition like this, and he also helped me prep with necessary training sessions for the event”, said Sana.

To participate in a Live Cooking Competition for the very first time was indeed a challenging experience for Sana and that she came out with flying colours made this winning even more special. “The amenities provided in the competition were all new to me and within the allotted time period. I not only had to prepare and present the dish impeccably but also had to get myself comfortable with the types of equipment around me in the makeshift kitchen. All these made me even more nervous than I already was, but that is the challenge in a competition like this, you cannot expect to be in your comfort zone and you simply push yourself to the limit where putting out your best becomes your only priority”.

When the competitions started she was only focused on giving her very best and little did she know about the overwhelming response coming her way from the jury by the end of the show. ” I made Chicken Roulade and finished with a nice plating presentation  & on time. When the plate was presented to the Jury, they were all really impressed with my plating skills and it was shown to the fellow competitors, as an example of plating that ought to be done in a fine dining restaurant. That sure was some real moment of winning for me, where I knew I was able to deliver successfully from what I had learnt so far from the ICCA Dubai”.

Sana did not have any second thoughts about, to whom the credits for her success should be given. It was definitely Chef Daniel, Chef Marco and the other ICCA faculty who were in and around to give her timely feedbacks on her improvements while she was preparing herself for the competition back at the school. “I had started preparing myself at the school for the competitions under the guidance of Chef Daniel and Chef Marco. They made me prepare the same dish over and over again and pushed me really hard to cope with the required competition standards timing in plating, as everything had to be done at the quickest possible so that the food made reached very fresh and hot to the judges table. I am glad that I had such a good support system behind me, which not only enabled me to win a Silver Medal in this competition but also built up my confidence for a better tomorrow”.

The Winner of 'Salon Culinaire' in the UAE at ICCA Dubai

When asked about her future plans and the benefits that came out of such an experience, all Sana had to say was about the exposure she got through the competition.”It is a great experience to be around so many Industry Professionals and to see them all work with true passion. I think all the budding chefs should experience this kind of event so that they get a good idea of the industry and their working styles. Also, this competition has helped give me a good platform to start my career in the industry”, she added.

About Salon Culinaire

The Emirates Culinary Guild’s Salon Culinaire is a series of practical and display-based culinary competitions; entry to which is open to professional chefs, pastry chefs, cooks and bakers. Approximately 1,300 young chefs compete to become stars of the future. From practical cooking competitions to the buffet and banqueting showpieces, chefs showcase their talent through a wide range of skills and techniques. Competitors are evaluated by a panel of renowned experts, mandated by the World Chefs to judge culinary events across the globe, ensuring the highest competition standards.



March 4, 2019

From An Engineer In Toyota To A Culinary Entrepreneur In Dubai

As a qualified engineer with a successful career at Toyota back in the Philippines, Chef Carlo Sobingsobing  decided to give up all of it to follow his parent’s footsteps and joined the Culinary Industry by taking charge of his mother’s restaurant in Dubai, which has now taken to new heights of success...

Carlo is a double graduate – in technology and culinary arts. However, his quest for knowledge did not stop there; he’s now doing an entrepreneurial course as well along with his hectic restaurant schedules to climb higher on the ladder of success.

Let’s find out what Carlo has to say about his career transition, and his journey so far as a chef and an entrepreneur.

Shruti: You are a qualified engineer... What inspired you to change your career path?

Chef Carlo: The restaurant that we have here in Dubai was started by my mom around 14 years back. All these years, she has managed to run that successfully all by herself. But lately, she has been having some health issues, and at such time it only felt right to take care of her and the business. She has invested a lot of time and effort into building up the business, so I didn’t have the heart to let it go.

Shruti: Did this sudden change in choice of career upset your family?

Chef Carlo: Oh yes, my mother was quite upset with my decision. She really wanted me to go back to my engineering field, as she knew I was quite happy with my career at that time. When I came to Dubai to help her with the restaurant she asked me to apply for jobs worth my qualification, and I even gave some interviews as well, but whenever it came towards the last lap I invariably rejected the offer. I think I had made up my mind to manage and develop the restaurant and was mentally prepared for a new career adventure.

Shruti: How did you feel about the drastic career transitioning?

Chef Carlo: It was definitely a huge transition. The fact is, I have always enjoyed being an engineer and I used to love my job too. But that never bothered me in taking a decision to become a chef, mainly because there was a part of me who enjoyed cooking too. From childhood itself, I used to help mom in the kitchen not because she asked me to but because I loved cooking and being around food. I remember reading a book based on restaurant management lately that says “consider having an own restaurant only if you are passionate about cooking or you have it in your family”, and in my case, it fits very well with my decision.

Shruti: Give us a glimpse into your career as a chef so far...

Chef Carlo: In the beginning, when I joined mom’s restaurant, I started with the basics since I didn’t have any formal culinary training. I handled more of service, purchase, and deliveries. Thanks to GPS I never lost my way doing deliveries being new in Dubai. From there, I slowly got promoted to the cash counter, and I had also started doing digital marketing by then for the restaurant.

Although I used to help in the kitchen, I was not that comfortable getting involved too much with cooking since I did not know the right way to do things as per the industry standards. That is when I thought about getting professionally trained and did my culinary education at ICCA Dubai.

Shruti: How did you find out about ICCA?

Chef Carlo: I came to know about ICCA through a random Google search and decided to do a short course before I got into a long-term professional course. So, I did a 3-day Artisan Bread Making course to learn the traditional way of bread making as I like bread a lot. I totally loved the course which eventually led to the professional program.

Shruti: How did your experience at ICCA Dubai help you after graduation?

Chef Carlo: ICCA gave me a proper insight into the culinary world. Even when I was doing my course in the evening, I used to get back to the restaurant and try to apply things that I was learning from school. After finishing school, I was able to keep my kitchen in a much more organized way. Now when we do outdoor catering, I am confident about taking up orders for international dishes which I was not comfortable doing earlier. Also, we have one more branch opened up in Al Nahda. And, moreover, all my batch mates and most of the Chefs from school have enjoyed the food at my restaurant.

Shruti: What did you enjoy the most about studying at ICCA Dubai?

Chef Carlo: It was always the kitchen that I enjoyed the most at ICCA. It’s massive, and I loved working & cooking in that environment getting some real industry exposure.

Shruti: What do you like the most working in the hospitality industry?

 As I said before, I have always enjoyed being an engineer, but when it comes to the culinary world, I feel this industry is more about giving which is highly gratifying. I am not just applying my knowledge here, but I am getting the chance to impart my knowledge to my staff too.

Shruti: What is your signature dish? Is there any story behind it?

Chef Carlo: I will have to say my signature dish is still under construction. (smiling)

Shruti: Are you still in touch with your batch mates?

Chef Carlo: Everyone is busy with their own lives but we all try to stay connected through our class WhatsApp group.

Shruti: What are your future plans?

Chef Carlo: I want to concentrate more on being in the kitchen and managing both our branches well. I believe good food should be affordable to everyone; it shouldn’t be something overly priced and served only in restaurants, so I am working on a plan to start a mobile food truck too. And, hopefully down the line, I want to open a branch back home...

The ICCA Dubai specially trains and equips students in industry best practices for a work placement in the Hospitality Industry and its graduates do it all in the Food world. They are successful Chefs, Restaurant Owners, Hospitality Managers, Entrepreneurs, Food Stylists, Food Writers and more.

Looking to equip yourself with the right set of hands-on skills and knowledge to set-up your very own Food Business?

March 4, 2019

Age Is Just A Number – The Story Of Yasmin Yusuf

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” – Henry Ford

There is no doubt that we all would love to get back a few of those youthful days of student life that we keep so dearly in our book of memories. But honestly, if we do get a chance to relive those moments again, how many of us would go for it? I am sure most of us would have a common ground of excuses like work, money, family and age, even though we may be just in our 30’s or 40’s.

At ICCA, during the last academic session, we saw a calm & seasoned face with a determination and enthusiastic quest in her eyes to learn more among the usual young crowd. ‘She came and she conquered’ is the shortest way I can explain her student life in ICCA.  Yasmin Yusuf, a mother and a grandmother, is one of those few inspiring souls that we rarely come across in our daily lives as a reminder so as to not let age affect our aspirations. Read on to know her story of working towards her ambitions at the age of 63, proving that age is just a number.

Shruti: Tell us a little about yourself...

Yasmin: I was born, raised and educated in Lahore, a beautiful city in Pakistan. After completing my Bachelors in Arts, in 1977 I worked briefly in Karachi for an Italian Food & Beverage Manager, Mr. Ernesto Barba at the Casino. Later, the very next year itself that job took me to London and Spain where I met my husband as well. I have to admit that some moments are indeed life changing.

After my marriage, we settled in London, and that place has been home for nearly 40 years. While I was there, I set up a property business in 1993, a company which my son runs now. From London, we moved to Dubai 10 years ago, and since then life was pretty much in and around UAE.

Shruti: Give us an insight about being a home cook...

Yasmin: Life in London was all about being a perfect homemaker. When it comes to kids I have always been into good quality, healthy food so fast food was never an option. That’s where my love for cooking started. I learned cooking from my mother, aunts, sisters & books. Little tips that helped, a bit like the tips that our Chefs give us.

After setting up my business, life became a whirlwind and to my rescue cooking for family was therapeutic which helped me unwind during those hectic days. In my amateur way, I used to try new recipes for my family and friends. Glad that no one ever complained!

Shruti: From being a real estate business entrepreneur how did your journey take a turn to a culinary school?

Yasmin: All these years, my cooking was much appreciated by family & friends, and we used to talk about me opening a place of my own, but due to family priorities, I kept my dream on the back burner. Now, the focus of life has changed, I am quite free and my dream seemed to call out to me. But I wanted to have more knowledge about what a restaurant would involve, and my niece, Amina, has been doing a pastry course at ICCA at that time. We got talking and then here I am, a step forward in following my dream.

Shruti: How do you feel about becoming a student again?

Yasmin: I won’t deny it was hard, but it was exhilarating. Exams were stressful, especially the practical and I haven’t done exams for more than half of my life, but then I learned to focus again and to deal with stress & time limits. I am thankful I didn’t have to do any retests! I guess the experience of being an old school student was paid off that way.

Shruti: How did the school react when you applied for the program at an age where most of them prefer to relax and enjoy?

Yasmin: My first meeting with Ms. Shanaz Raja, Course Director, and Chef Aziz Rajab is still a source of amusement for me. After sending my application, I was called for an interview. I felt, they were thinking “What is she thinking? 60+ and wants to do such a physically gruelling course with kids aged in their early 20’s in a hot kitchen?” But I assured them I would be fine as I am doing it to live my dream, and I have been more than fine.

Shruti: How was your experience attending classes with considerably younger students?

Yasmin: I had an amazing experience with such a young and thriving generation. We had a lovely batch of 21 budding chefs with three boys aged less than 20! Not to mention the differences we had in the thought processes, which helped me learn much more than just cooking. They were all respectful and we formed a bond, like a surrogate family. The junior and senior batches mingle and help each other. It’s like a family coming together for those months and then staying in touch and knowing what we are all doing after leaving our temporary home.

Shruti: Being a culinary student at this age is not the same as doing other class room courses. It demands a lot of physical effort in the kitchen. How was your experience in the kitchen?

Yasmin: The kitchen was a delight to learn and work in. Helpful staff, modern kitchen equipment, and the faultlessly flowing kitchen plan made things a little easy for me.

Chef Vinod & Chef Daniel & Chef Francois have the patience of angels. Chef Aziz pushed us to learn & find our potential. Chef Marco was our friend but was very strict in judging our performance.  The morning greeting from Chef Mihaly for the “youngest student” used to set the mood for me. Chef Lorraine’s guidance is exemplary. They used to share their life experiences and the road they travelled to get to where they are today, and these stories fill our minds with dreams to fulfill for ourselves.

Shruti: What advice or guidance would you like to give for other non-conventional students out there?

Yasmin: When I decided to study further, I did not think about my age as a constraint. The only thing in my mind was to pursue my dream and for me, this was only a part of a much bigger plan. For the senior aspiring students like me, all I have to say is take the very thought of being old from your mind, which is stopping you from planning your future. I would say keep doing and experiencing new things rather than thinking you are too old for anything new.

Shruti: What are your future plans?

Yasmin: There is still a lot to learn and the next step is to work in a real kitchen. I am hoping to do that in London and I am working on that. I am a step closer to fulfilling my dream…. A place of my own, a café that is an extension of my living room where I entertain in my own style but one that has been chiseled by ICCA.

March 2, 2019

A Culinary Entrepreneur In The Making

ICCA Dubai has witnessed the rise & success of many food entrepreneurs since its inception. However, it’s not every day that we see someone as young as Nuha Khaleel, 19 who is very much focused on working towards her career goals to become an entrepreneur in the culinary industry following her father’s footsteps.

Nuha Khaleel is a Professional Program student of ICCA Dubai and as soon she graduated as a young chef, we sat down with her to discuss her experience in the culinary world so far and also to peek into her future career plans to inspire the fellow youngsters of her age.

Shruti: If I may ask who Nuha Khaleel is, what would you say?

Nuha: A successful future culinary entrepreneur for sure! But as of now, I am a culinary student at ICCA Dubai with a family business background in patisserie.

Shruti: Is that the reason why you chose a career in the same field?

Nuha: Yeah, I could say family business did play a major role in my career decision but like every other kid, I also had some other thoughts about my career. I am good at creative writing and I wanted to pursue a career in that but I am not quite confident about being a writer. And, when it comes to food, for our family it is the source of our livelihood as my dad has been in this field for over 35 years now. So the interest in building up a career in the culinary field came naturally to me which led me to ICCA Dubai right after my 12th grade.

Shruti: How did you come to know about ICCA?

Nuha: One of my sister’s friend is a chef at Atlantis, The Palm, who did his professional program from ICCA and he’s the one who suggested this school as one of the best in the region.

Shruti: How has your experience at ICCA been so far?

Nuha: ICCA is definitely a good experience.  Initially, I had come here to do only hot kitchen but after completing that I enrolled in for patisserie also as that is what my dad’s business is all about. As I mentioned, I joined ICCA soon after my 12th grade and I was worried about going into a completely new environment. But to my surprise, from day one itself, ICCA put me at ease. I got along well with everyone here including the Chefs, learnt well and made a lot of friends too.

Shruti: If you have to pick a favourite moment at ICCA what would that be?

Nuha: Favourite moment would be working at Formula 1 kitchen. The exposure and experience working in a real busy event kitchen were huge which made all our efforts and burns worth it. I’m really glad ICCA provided us with such a great opportunity.

Shruti: Who is your favourite ICCA Chef Instructor?

Nuha: I like everyone equally but Chef Marco was the mentor of our batch and he was more than just a teacher for us. He knows when to be a professional and when he should be our friend. I used to enjoy his class a lot.

Shruti: What’s next after ICCA?

Nuha: After graduation I would be working with my dad at Bakemart Gourmet for a few months to get some experience and then by September I will be going to University to learn Business Management so that I can learn everything about entrepreneurship.

Shruti: Any plans to further the culinary education?

Nuha: Yes, I am planning to go to Le Cordon Bleu, London during my next summer break for a 3 months course. I believe it is important to gain as much knowledge as possible when you have big dreams.

Shruti: So, you don’t plan on working as a Chef?

Nuha: After graduation, I would be a certified chef but I don’t see myself working in the industry as a chef. My plan has always been to become an entrepreneur in the culinary industry which happens to be in my blood I believe.

Shruti: Going back to your earlier ambition to become a writer, do you have any plans to pursue it?

Nuha: Well, I love writing no doubt about it. So, I don’t know, maybe someday I might write a cookbook or something related to food. Let’s see...

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