NASREENA ALI (NATTI) Sous Chef, Dhigali Maldives

Personality of the Month
PUBLISHED March 25, 2020

What sparked your interest in cooking? And how did your decision to become a chef develop?

Since I was a child, I have simply loved cooking. But I’ve taken various courses in my life. I studied tailoring, and I also have a Diploma in Cake Decoration.

It was when I experienced the hot kitchen for the very first time that I realised this was for me. I’m happiest when I’m working in the hustle and bustle of the hot kitchen!

Destination dining is becoming increasingly popular among many resorts across the Maldives. What are your thoughts on this unique concept whereby guests at resort islands are entertained exclusively in a variety of stylish and distinctly different settings, both on and off the island with creative menus and entertainment?

It’s always fun and exciting to entertain guests in special dining settings. I’m usually the chef at most of the private picnics at the resort.

Another special dining option we have at Dhigali is Battuta – named after Ibn Battuta, one of the greatest Moroccan travellers of the 14th century. At Battuta you’ll get to experience cuisines from some of the nations that Ibn Battuta visited including Maldives as well as countries in North Africa, Middle East and Southeast Asia, in the form of truly authentic Thale Dinners.

If you are going to present Maldivian food to an international audience, what food would you present to them?

It would have to be Kandu Kukulhu, which means ‘chicken of the sea’ when directly translated to English, is one of the most authentic out of all the Maldivian tuna curries. Along with it, I would serve onion salad, fragrant cumin seed rice and some papadam.

Considering the relatively few Maldivian chefs in the hospitality industry, do you think there are enough opportunities available for locals to excel in this profession?

Of course, there is plenty of opportunity. I always offer to train charismatic young people who are passionate about becoming chefs. Unfortunately, some Maldivian parents are still quite hesitant to send their children to work in resorts. But it’s a great opportunity for them to learn and gain a lot of experience.

Also, you have to keep in mind that working in a hot kitchen is a very challenging job, and you will be competing with international chefs – you have to push through and keep working hard. I would really like to see more women joining this industry. We, at the Chef’s Guild of Maldives, always work towards creating awareness and giving equal opportunity for both young women and men.

What were your key takeaways from last year’s Food and Hospitality Asia Maldives Exhibition (FHAM)?

As part of the organizing committee of FHAM, we see so much talent in the youth of today. Last year as well there were many talented young chefs, which made me very happy.

Anything special that you are looking forward to in the coming years?

I’m always thinking of doing something new or experimenting new recipes. Just recently I created a special noni fruit jam and the guests and everyone loved it. Who knows what I will do next.

Any words of wisdom for aspiring chefs?

I would say this is a very challenging career path. You have to be strong, never give up and work hard. Anyone who does so, can definitely get to this level and even rise higher. I am also still working to excel further in my field. It’s not over yet.



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