FeaturedSeptember 16, 2021

Abdul Waheed — Sous Chef at Kuda Villingili Resort

Abdul Waheed is a Sous Chef working at Kuda Villingili Resort, a luxurious new property making waves in the Maldivian Tourism industry. Thanks to his hard work and dedication to the culinary arts, Abdul has traveled the globe and worked for leading international hotel chains in the industry before joining the team at Kuda Villingili two months ago.

Here, Abdul shares the story of how his passion for cooking turned into a full-fledged career and reveals the culinary secrets of Kuda Villingili’s signature ‘Spice’ restaurant, a live-kitchen hawker style venue offering delectable Indian-Arabic inspired fare.

Could you tell us about your career so far?

I’ve been working in the industry for about ten years now, specialized in all cuisines – Indian, Arabic, French, and more. I first started my career at Hotel Royal Orchid, Bengaluru, India and then moved to One & Only the Palm Dubai, as a pre-opening property, with 3 Michelin star chef Yannick Alleno. I worked there for two years, after which I moved to the Maldives to work at Park Hyatt Maldives. Then, I got a good opportunity to work at Cheval Blanc Randheli as part of a pre-opening team again. A chef who was a friend of mine approached me with this opportunity, and I thought it was a wonderful idea to immerse myself in a different opening.

After having worked there for a while, I had to moved back to India to attend some personal matters. There, I opened a pastry shop along with my cousin and worked for a year to stay close to my family. After that, I was on a lookout again for an opportunity to work abroad, which led me to Kempinski Al Othman hotel in Saudi Arabia. I worked there for two years then post that, I got the chance to work at VOX Cinema in Saudi Arabia. It was a new and exciting experience, working with Michelin star chef Gary Rhodes Restaurant, opening a cinema kitchen as it was something I had never done before. After the pandemic struck the world was at halt, businesses were greatly affected and the staffs were asked to go including myself.

Finally, I got the opportunity to come to Kuda Villingili in the Maldives, which has been a great and fulfilling experience so far.

What made you want to become a chef?

I’ll tell you a short story. When I was around 13 or 14, my mother became very ill. We were expecting a visit from a few relatives. She asked me to help out in the kitchen. I was taught to make biriyani for the very first time, that day. The guests were so happy, they gave me a nickname in our language which meant ‘chef’.

I approached four cousins who were pastry chefs in various parts of the world. One of them guided me and told me what to study, what to do after college, and laid the path out for me. That’s how it all unfolded.

What has your experience in the Maldives been like so far?

I’ve been in the Maldives for three years, this year being my fourth. In terms of culture, the Maldivian people are very friendly and hospitable. I’m enjoying myself a lot here. I’ve even learnt to make Maldivian cuisine, dishes such as mashuni, kukulhu riha, and a lot more. It’s very similar to Indian cuisine, so it’s easy to learn.

How does Kuda Villingili cater to its guests’ tastes?

Our aim here at Kuda Villingili, is to make our guests happy, that they would remember us forever. I want to leave them with an everlasting impression of my food, because that’s what really makes it – the memory attached to a certain moment, a certain dish. It’s very special.

Could you tell us more about ‘Spice’? What makes this restaurant so unique?

As you know, ‘Spice’ is one of the three restaurants at the Hawkers, a relaxed and social dining venue which is located by the impressive swimming pool at Kuda Villingili. There’s also a bar, and two other distinctive restaurants, ‘East’ and ‘Med’, which offers Thai -Japanese and Italian-Mediterranean fusion street food through their respective open, live kitchens. All outlets at the Hawkers are now open for service.

Spice’ serves up soulful, sharing style creations inspired by Indian and Arabic cuisines, including flame-grilled kebabs, charcoal-grilled tandoor and delicious shawarmas. “I’m Indian, and I’ve worked extensively in the Middle East, so I believe I have a good sensibility and knowledge regarding the fusion concept of Indian and Arabic food. I have Moroccan and Indian chefs working here with me, so together, we combine our skill sets to create fantastic fusion dishes. The spices used in Indian and Arabic cuisines are similar, though the process of cooking is completely different. So, it’s an interesting concept we have, to fuse the two cuisines together. “

What are the best dishes you’d recommend from here?

Honestly, it’s hard to choose one or two dishes. We handpick the very best dishes for our guests here, so anything that they choose is certain to be delicious. Some guests might like meat, or they might be vegetarian, or they might like seafood; it’s all a matter of taste and preference really.

That said, I would highly recommend our tandoori platter, this is a must-have. It’s a unique combination of flavors and marination. They’re all completely different, with various types of meats and vegetables. The chaat masala we use is actually a secret recipe, and is really what completes the dish, I think.

For dessert, I’d recommend the gulab jamun mousse cake. It’s a unique style of serving a gulab jamun which is traditionally a soft fried ball in sweet syrup. Here, we turned it into a mousse cake.

On the Arabic front, we serve some spectacular shawarmas. It’s one of our bestsellers. Before, we used to have only chicken shawarma, but due to popular demand, we’ve added a lamb option as well. Hopefully, in the future, we may introduce beef shawarmas.

But like I said, it’s hard to pick one or the other. If a guest is here for a week, they should give everything on our menu a go, at least once. All the dishes we have are unlike anything else out there, and I’m certain that our guests will leave ‘Spice’ feeling satisfied no matter what they choose.

For more information on the resort, please visit: www.kudavillingili.com