Meet the 13-year old Emirati twin chefs who don't enjoy junk food

Maitha and Abdulrahman are the youngest graduates from the International Centre for Culinary Arts


Ambica Sachin

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Published: Sun 21 Nov 2021, 6:11 PM

Last updated: Sun 21 Nov 2021, 6:50 PM

At 13 they are at an age where they should be more interested in gobbling up the latest burger to launch in town or hanging out at a local pizza joint.

So when Emirati twins Maitha and Abdulrahman’s mother Eng. Hind Al Kindi tell us when we meet up at their Al Warqaa villa, that growing up they have never enjoyed a burger from the world famous global domain of junk food, we are suitably taken aback. It’s probably the first alphabet kids get to learn impromptu, the city being dotted with its cheery signages that can be seen miles away.

The grandchildren of the famous Emirati poet and translator Dr Shihab Ganem, Maitha and Abdulrahman’s foray into the kitchen started as toddlers when they would assist their father, Dr Waddah Al Hashmi in the culinary department at home.

From cutting up mushrooms with a plastic knife to donning their chef’s whites and mini toques to assist him in the kitchen it was but natural for them to find their place in the city’s International Centre for Culinary Arts (ICCA).

The youngest to ever graduate from the prestigious culinary institute, the three month long diploma course offered them a chance to hone their cooking skills as well as gain expertise in related fields including food safety, the hospitality industry and supply chain.

When we meet up, Abdulrahman, despite hobbling around with a painful leg sprain, was totally focused on the job at hand, pan searing the fish and cooking the cauliflower before pureeing it, in between talking to us.

The siblings were busy pulling each other’s leg in between the cooking, making it clear that underneath all their accomplishments, they were first and foremost brother and sister, a bond that was evident as they worked side by side.

While Abdulrahman harbours dreams of starting his own restaurant in the city, Maitha and he are currently planning to bring out a cook book of their signature dishes, some of which are showcased in their insta account (uae_twin_chefs).

Both express their pride at being the UAE’s youngest national twin chefs to get the Diploma in Cookery from the ICCA, a feat that is more remarkable considering they managed to do this alongside their regular studies.

What is your earliest memory of food that got you interested in cooking?

Abdulrahman: Using a plastic knife, which my father used to give me to cut the mushrooms when we would help him prepare breakfast.

Maitha: I remember wearing the (chef’s)uniform before helping my father to cook in the kitchen in the mornings.

What does food mean to both of you, other than sustenance?

Food is about happiness and spreading happiness — food preparation is like an art and we learnt at the culinary arts school about the science of cooking.

You are at an age where your peers are more interested in eating junk food or cajoling mothers to make their favourite dish! But you both have decided to go behind the scenes to actually learn all about the culinary arts. From where does this passion come?

Both our parents love good quality food and don’t like and have not brought us up on fast food. Our grandmother is a very talented cook by training since she was a child working with her mother in the kitchen; we are greatly inspired by her and her exceptional talent and taste.

Nowadays food is all about the presentation with social media taking over our kitchen; how do you feel about that?

We are okay with that but presenting food in a photo or video does not involve the real, look, feel, scent and the taste of food — so it can never be the same as having the food directly in front of you.

Who has been your inspiration when it comes to cooking?

Besides some international chefs, our grandmother, father and mother who are also passionate about quality food and cooking.

What is the toughest thing to do in the kitchen?

Mainly the cleaning and the dish washing!

You are also planning a cookbook with your recipes. What can we expect out of that?

We plan to do 50 recipes with soups, starters, mains and desserts. These are some traditional recipes but with some adjustments and additions.

In terms of cuisines, what is your absolute favorite one?

Abdulrahman: Modern cuisine and some fusion cooking.

Maitha: Italian mainly and sometimes Indian food because I like spicy stuff.

If you ever started a restaurant what kind of food would you serve there?

Different types of dishes but we like to make tasty and healthier options for ‘fast food’. And we’d also do combinations of Italian, Indian, Western and Emirati choices as well.

Dubai being such a multi-cultural food hotspot, what are your hopes and dreams for your future here?

We hope to continue to develop our skills and knowledge in cooking and in the future participate on a part time basis perhaps with some good restaurants and cafes — maybe take it also more seriously in the future.

You are the grand children of the famous Emirati poet and translator Dr Shihab Ghanem. As such what is the legacy you want to leave behind as members of such an illustrious family.

Our grandfather is a great man and being a poet, is very artistic. Cookery is also an art in terms of the preparation and the presentation of food. We also hope that we can be famous like him and present culinary arts instead of poetry art on behalf of the UAE.

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