Tell us about yourself?
I’m half Greek and half Lebanese. I have a BA in hospitality management, however, I have always been passionate about cooking. Seven years ago, I decided to pursue cooking professionally.
What brought you to Riyadh?
I moved here when I was eight years old and have always thought of Riyadh as home. I was living in Dubai when I decided to change careers and came back to my parents to re-evaluate my next move. I was fortunate to find exciting opportunities and ended up staying in Riyadh.
How did you get inspired to start your vegan catering business?
I was working in the kitchen at Nozomi To-Go/Catering when I began my transition to veganism. I was shocked at the lack of good healthy vegan options and I decided that I wanted to seize the opportunity, so that’s when I began Ayla’s Vegan Kitchen.
What do you do at your company?
As head chef, I prepare the savoury items, make the menus, speak with customers and manage the accounts. My mother is the brains behind the pastry section. We are still a small company but plan to expand in the near future.
How do you provide an eco-friendly service through your catering company?
Veganism is not only about the food you eat, but also about being part of the solution for the environment. We have reusable bags for the vegetables and shopping that we do, which I think is an easy way to make a small contribution. We do not use any processed ingredients, this reduces the amount of packaged items we purchase. Our delivery containers are 90% plastic-free, and we don’t send cutlery unless requested. All of these approaches reduce our plastic use and waste. We also save all the cuttings from our fruits and vegetables to be used as compost. Unfortunately, we still struggle with recycling and would gladly take recommendations on where to do so.
Who are your main clients? Would you cater to businesses or individuals or both?
We have a large range of customers that we cater to, from individuals to cafes and other businesses. Our customers are not all vegan, we also have many people who like to eat a healthy vegan meal once in a while.
We try to cater to everyone!
What is a typical day like for you?
My day begins in the kitchen at 7 am where I prepare lunch meals for that day. Everything is always prepared fresh. The meals are sent out at 11:30 am. I then continue to prepare for the other orders. Every day is different, I sometimes finish by 3 pm and other times I won’t get back home until much later in the evening.
What do you enjoy the most about your work?
I love being in the kitchen, I always have! But what I love even more, is being able to make people happy with my food. My mission is to create delicious healthy food that is not seen as “vegan” and so far so good! I will never tire from hearing “I can’t believe this is vegan”! Being able to create my own recipes and cook the food is its own reward.
What is the hardest part of your work?
The hours, as we are still a small operation, the majority of the work falls on me which means I’m on my feet all day.
How do you balance being a spouse and a working woman?
Being a chef and working in the kitchen for so many hours during the day, means that many times my poor husband doesn’t get home-cooked food for dinner! But I’m very fortunate to have someone who supports me as much as he does.
I don’t currently have children but I do have a hoard of rescued pets at home that we love! When I know that I have a long day ahead of me, I try to get home during the day for an hour to walk and feed them all.
Tell us about your journey of finding a job in Riyadh.
When I decided that I wanted to work in a kitchen, it wasn’t that easy at first. I worked with a start-up BBQ company and a few other catering companies but the kitchen was still not an option for me at the time. When the food and beverage scene in Riyadh began changing, I was fortunate enough to be one of the first female chefs in the region, and Nozomi helped me get my foot in the door.
What advice would you give women considering starting their own business in the Kingdom?
In terms of starting their own business, my advice is to find a niche in the market and test out the demand before going full force! It’s important to make sure there is a demand for what you have before taking a huge risk.
Where can creative women go to network in Riyadh?
All WSB events are a fantastic way to do so!
Do you have a quote or motto that you live by?
Do what you love!!
Contact Information & Social Media
I can be contacted through instagram @aylaskitchen or by mobile on +966 502639822