On our 14th anniversary, Identity is celebrating one of its phenomenal writers, Soha Darwish. Darwish has always taken up challenges. Her move to the UK 15 years ago engaged her fully in family life.
Harbouring a passion for food, Soha continued to nurture her family along with her most cherished pastime, cooking. Her life in cosmopolitan London, a world renowned city for its culinary and gastronomy arts, served the aspiring cook’s talents well.
While writing down recipes, another pleasurable hobby emerged; it was food writing and creating menus, which later on urged her to obtain a diploma in food journalism.
Darwish collaborated successfully with branding companies on several F&B projects including menu revamps and copywriting, as well as content writing for social media and websites, and also she joined the Identity family. We sat down with Soha to hear all about her career and how she went after her dreams.
Take us through your journey, how did you career kick off?
Having lived in London, a gastronomy city renowned for its culinary arts, for 10 years prior to my move to the UAE, has definitely served the aspiring cook in me well. But unexpectedly, another pleasurable hobby has emerged from writing down my recipes – food writing and creating menus, surprising myself with a rich vocabulary for describing flavours, textures and aromas. After that, a persistent urge has arisen to pursue a career in this path, which has driven me to obtain a diploma in food journalism from the UK. Afterwards, I collaborated successfully with reputable branding companies and restaurants on several F&B projects including menu developing and copywriting, as well as content writing for social media and websites. Then came the journalism part which gives me great pleasure, as I feel most connected with my readers showing and sharing sides of my personality.
What is your favorite cuisine? How many different types of cuisines can you cook?
This is a tough one! I enjoy many cuisines but if I must narrow it down, I would say Japanese (not only sushi) and Italian. I love the clean fresh flavours of the Japanese cuisine with its highly meticulous standards and techniques. Also, good authentic Italian food simply puts a smile on my face with its lush ingredients and home cooking style but I have to highlight that I only enjoy it when the best quality ingredients are used just like in an authentic restaurant in the heart of Tuscany or Amalfi coast -immeasurable pleasure!
To be honest, I can comfortably cook any dish I like in any cuisine. That doesn’t sound very humble, does it? But if you’re passionate about food and cooking this comes very naturally. Cooking for me is almost a meditation practice which helps me to clear my thoughts and distress.
Did London’s culinary art affect your style in cooking?
It did, big time! On TV there, programs are either about properties or food. I was mesmerised by the various cuisines, food knowledge and language used in describing flavours and textures; it was like music to my ears. I just fell in love with the vocabulary the likes of Nigella Lawson, Antonio Carluccio and Rick Stein used. In addition to, London’s unique dining scene, accessibility to diverse cuisines and its great wealth of ingredients; all helped my cooking style to evolve over the years.
Give us examples on projects you worked on and what are your current ones?
I consider myself fortunate to start my career with collaborating with the reputable Branding agency ‘Brandbees’ on several projects in Egypt e.g Fresh Food Market and Battaw restaurant. After that, I undertook more menu projects in the UAE and Lebanon. I’m currently working with Sodic on developing and writing the menus for all food outlets in their new impressive sports club ‘Club S’; it’s a huge honour to be part of this big project, exciting! In addition to my journalism work, where I regularly contribute in Identity magazine plus freelancing in other magazines in the UAE like Fig Jam and Yalla Abu Dhabi.
What’s the importance of a good menu?
I’ve always believed that reading through a good menu should be equally exciting as savouring the chef’s signature dishes. However, we often find the menu disappointing and not in line with the efforts spent in either the interiors or executing those dishes. It may be the design, lack of accuracy in food description or linguistic mistakes; all of which could really compromise the menu. With a good menu in hand, diners can visualise their food choices enabling them to get an idea of what to expect leading to less turned back dishes to the kitchen, hence happy customers and staff. So, it can affect the entire service flow and the general mood, all down to investing in a good menu that fits and complements the restaurant atmosphere.
Should a chef have educational backgrounds from culinary schools and institutions, or can they just depend on their talent and knowledge?
Talent and passion are the foundation of a good chef, but I believe we are living in highly competitive times and the dining scene is thriving. So, in order to keep up they need to learn and grasp a lot of techniques and evolving concepts. Therefore, culinary schools and institution are also essential and crucial to stand out.
What do you do to stay on current trends?
I always keep a list with new restaurants coming up and the existing ones with good reviews where I live or in countries I plan to visit. Also, I have to say that the UAE is a very attractive place for world famous restaurants to venture out here and I’m really privileged to be in this exciting part of the world. Watching good food shows and programs is also really important, like The Chef’s table, Street Food and Master Chef UK.
What’s the biggest dream you want to achieve in your career?
My biggest dream is to connect and reach as many food lovers as I can; this is my ultimate goal. I started with my food articles then my blog either on Facebook: A Food Writer and Menu Consultant or Instagram @soha_darwish_foodwriter_menus, where I share my published articles/recipes, menu projects and interesting food knowledge/tips. I also would like to be able to do that visually through TV shows in which I can share my original recipes and talk about cooking and food from a cultural perspective. Finally, maybe at some point write a cookbook sharing my career journey, food knowledge and recipes. There is still so much more to accomplish but I’m happy with the steps I managed to take while looking after my family and nurturing them.
We thank Soha for such an inspiring interview and we wish her all the best in her career.