RIYADH: Saudi chef Hatoon Al-Toukhi is being touted on social media as one of the best authentic Italian chefs.
“It all started when I was fired from my job because of the pandemic. Then I decided to go into the social media world to show people how I cook Italian food and they admired the originality of the dishes,” Al-Toukhi told Arab News.
She also showcases her Italian cooking techniques live on a series of cooking shows.
Married into an Italian family, Al-Toukhi inherited cooking techniques from her mother-in-law. She learned secret tips and tricks to prepare the perfect Italian dishes.
It’s extremely difficult to get Italians’ approval when it comes to recreating their cuisine, Al-Toukhi said, but the talented chef has received the plentiful endorsement of her in-laws and other people’s praise for her cooking.
“My mother-in-law is Italian and they are very picky about their food and very strict and traditional. So I learned how to cook the food from her, and that’s how I fell in love with the kitchen, and she’s okay with that,” she said.
Al-Toukhi now leads Italian cooking workshops, teaching students how to make authentic Italian sauces, pasta and other traditional dishes.
With an in-depth knowledge of Italian cuisine, Al-Toukhi is also an Italian food critic and pasta taster. “Companies send me noodles before distributing them to suppliers so I can taste them and give my approval. I also sort the noodles according to the standards.”
The Saudi chef also runs a small shop from home, selling her famous tiramisu and fresh pasta packs of lasagna, ravioli, linguini and fusilli, among other things.
Al-Toukhi revealed that one of the challenges she faces from the Saudi community is that her authentic Italian food differs from what is served in restaurants in the kingdom as they often change recipes to suit the locals’ palates to satisfy. “My food comes as a shock to people used to Saudi food, but then I tell them that’s how it’s originally prepared. Actually what prevents me from having my own restaurant, the acceptance of pure taste and the availability of cooking materials.”
Al-Toukhi is currently developing a lifestyle radio show combining cooking and lifestyle topics.
“I was a guest host on a radio show and they liked the energy I gave. Then the station contacted me and said they wanted to give me my own radio show. I’m excited because it won’t just be about cooking, we’ll also be talking about a lot of social issues,” she said.
As a family, Al-Toukhi has its own traditions with their children Dana and Yousef aged ten and four respectively, where they all enjoy a fun day of family cooking.
“When we make fresh pasta at home, everyone has to join in, including my husband, and we play with it. My son plays with it like it’s Play-Doh and sometimes we invite my mother-in-law over so it’s like a nice family party,” she said.