Saudi Arabia's Foodie Scene Growing

With the fast-food market expected to reach $4.5 billion in the next three years, you'd hardly believe Saudi Arabia is a hot spot for foodies and gourmet chefs alike. However, as CNN reports, the country's culinary scene is making waves internationally.

The chefs and foodies on the rise: Yasser Jad, the culinary director of Saudi Arabian Airlines who trained at Le Cordon Bleu; Emanuele Esposito, executive chef at Il Villagio Restaurant; and Rashed Islam, food blogger who founded the site that has thousands of hits already. The three point out that new restaurants across the country are slowly making a dent in the fast-food franchise nation. Said Esposito to CNN, "There are more restaurants opening all the time. Alongside the Saudi and Middle Eastern restaurants, there are Italian restaurants and Japanese has really taken off in the last few years."

Plus, the Saudi Arabian Chef Association, born three years ago, aims to create a home for new chefs and become a major player in international food competitions. Said Jad (the founder) to What's Up in February, the most challenging part of starting the association was to incorporate their dietary restrictions (because Muslims cannot eat pork or drink alcohol) into the World Association of Chefs' Societies. Despite difficulties, the group has made an impression already; the group has participated in the International Culinary Olympics and a Top Chef-like event for Al Harthi.

What will transform the country into a major international food scene, said Jad, are more culinary schools for developing chefs. Both Jad and Esposito are working on opening hospitality schools in the country.