Through sculptures, Saudi kitchen artist seeks to fuse the realms of art...

Through sculptures, Saudi kitchen artist seeks to fuse the realms of art and food

Mohammed Abutalib poses with one of his ice sculptures.

Shahd Alhamdan

JEDDAH – Believing that every cake has a happy story was a major motive for Mohammed Abutalib giving up his day job to become a cake decorator. Just 30 years old, he is currently working as a Kitchen Artist at ASSILA Hotel, a Rocco Forte Hotel in Jeddah and where he also puts his talents to use as an ice and vegetable sculptor.

Abutalib has a bachelor’s degree in marketing and was working in graphic design and branding. He entered the culinary field by coincidence in 2008 after which he decided it was time for a change in careers.

“I used to draw since I was a child and I think my experience in branding helped me in the kitchen. When I decided to change careers, my family did not accept it at the beginning, but today they are proud of me after they’ve seen my progress,” he said.

According to Abutalib, since there are many Saudi chefs in the city, he wanted to set himself apart by mastering the skills of food sculpting and cake decorating.

“I am a self-taught decorator. I have never studied it. I either learned everything myself or from what my mother taught me growing up. She used to say that if you want to do something, just do it. Do not wait for someone to teach you or travel to learn it,” he said.

When he started, Abutalib would spend up to 15 hours meticulously sculpting food items until he was satisfied with the end result.

“I practiced these skills and it was a challenge for me. After 4 years, I mastered it.”

When asked if he has plans on opening his own business, he answered that after reading the biography of several successful chefs, experience was the common factor for their achievements.

“After gaining the needed experience, I may open my own bakery shop. I love cakes. I believe that in every cake there is a happy story and no one orders a cake if he or she is sad. Baking cakes is a happy business,” Abutalib said.

For the remainder of 2017, Abutalib said he will be focusing on ice sculpturing and carving, in the hopes of creating a masterpiece that will propel his name in the industry.

“To do a piece of art with vegetables or ice needs time, effort, and high attention. The kitchen needs passion and art can help ignite that passion.”