Meet One Of The Best Chefs In The Maldives: Ahmed Fatheen
Today is International Chef Day and to celebrate the occasion, we have interviewed one of the best Maldivian chefs for some insight into the culinary world and what it takes to become a first-class chef in the hospitality-driven country of The Maldives.
At Maldives Secrets, not only do we strive to promote The Maldives as an ideal holiday destination, but we also focus on promoting the wonderful local talents of The Maldives, by spreading the word and highlighting their incredible work.
Allow us to introduce to you, Ahmed Fatheen, who has 17 years of experience as an award-winning chef in The Maldives and currently owns, and is the Executive Chef at, his own Japanese restaurant OISHII - The House of Sushi, located in Hulhumalé next to the capital city of Malé.
Throughout his career, Ahmed Fatheen has won prestigious awards for his culinary talents including his three-time win of Hotel Asia's 'Best Maldivian Chef', his silver medal at HOFEX Singapore and his prestigious name as 'Master of Seasoning' in Dubai.
How did your journey into culinary arts begin?
I grew up on a modest little island in Shaviyani Atoll called Foakaidhoo, with nothing but a strong passion and determination to become a chef. My culinary journey began, as most start, at the bottom of the success ladder when I worked as a Commis 3 at the Four Seasons Kuda Huraa. However, even back then I had a hunger for knowledge and a yearning to step outside my comfort zone that eventually turned the heads of the top brass in my direction.
Given my unorthodox style that was unique in its practice, I was deemed worthy enough for further my culinary studies in Canada; an opportunity which then allowed me to work with notable names in the hospitality industry in The Maldives upon my return. Now, having trekked 17 years through a journey that did nothing to dampen the passion I have for this business, if anything, having it grown every passing day, I am fortunate enough to be handling a restaurant of my own.
How challenging is it to become a chef, and ultimately having your own restaurant, in The Maldives?
The Maldivian culinary journey is filled with busy, challenging yet incredibly rewarding routes. Being noticed and celebrated as a chef takes time and there are definitely no shortcuts to success. I walked the path that every successful person has walked with worn out soles to get to where I am today. It requires a lot of passion, hard work and dedication. Even more so when you're from a small country like The Maldives, yet alone a small local island. It is true, that for someone from a humble island in The Maldives, to make a global mark, is virtually unheard of around here.
As a chef, I’m exceptionally hardworking and always have an affinity for experimentation, which are both crucial components for success. I am extremely capable in managing overwhelming kitchen responsibilities while also having a keen eye for business - which has lead me to where I am today.
Today, after years of dreaming, scheming and sleepless nights of plotting the right course, I stand at the helm of my own restaurant. This is a huge crowning achievement of mine, as someone who started out with big dreams in a small country - it goes to show how impactful you can be with fierce determination, a will to never quit, and in my case, a pair of sharp knives with an eye for just the right taste to go with it.
What kind of cuisine do you specialise in?
As a child, living on an island, I quickly understood the importance of fishing and the demand for it. The knowledge I took away from my childhood lay the foundation for the bridges I built for myself in my career. In the kitchen, I loved handling the intricacies of seafood dishes and identifying the varieties of fish used. Naturally, this guided me towards the art of Japanese cuisine that required a finesse that I felt I needed to polish. I pursued these interests, learning about Japanese cuisine and having incredible mentors. I was extremely fortunate to have been trained by world- class Japanese chefs that instilled me with knowledge I make use of to this day.
A standout mentor for me was Chef Kato, a true genius of the Japanese cuisine industry and one of the rare chefs licensed to work with venomous fish, like the puffed fish, who during my tenure with him, trained and drilled me hard every day that it left me in tears at the end of many of my shifts. Today, I am grateful for those tears for it has made me into the man I am today and I am fortunate for all that Chef Kato passed onto me to harness my true potential.
Did you experience challenges by being a local chef, as opposed to a foreign chef, in The Maldives?
When I began my journey, the number of local chefs operating in the hospitality industry in The Maldives was few. I was quick to notice how many foreigners dominated the scene and it only pushed my determination to make a name for myself even more. I also want to set an example for Maldivian's and prove that becoming a renowned chef in such a competitive industry was possible.
At the end of the day, talent, whether local of foreign, will be rewarded. With my experience working in various resorts, I observed and learned the intricacy of culinary arts and the professionalism of the chefs. My journey and my hard work to get to where I am today has truly payed off, as the value of great chef’s are now close to priceless.
What is, according to you, the future for Maldivian chefs?
This may not have been true for many of us a few years ago, but today, this field is ripe for the picking. It’s huge, especially for the locals, as The Maldives is a natural paradise that attracts abundant tourism. Chefs are now one of the most sought after talents in The Maldives, being paid top dollar for their skills. There is so much variety in cooking, thus, the opportunities are quite literally endless and the future looks promising.
What's your advice to anyone who dreams of becoming a famous chef like you in The Maldives?
Be passionate, brave, hungry to learn and resilient. In this industry, there is always something new to learn and that's the beauty of it. You really have to be passionate and love what you do no matter what because there will be tough times, difficult co-workers and you may feel like giving up, but you have to be strong, face the difficult days and move forward.
At the end of the day, chef's bring joy to people, we add a spark of happiness to their everyday lives. So if you're passionate about culinary arts, do not be afraid to come forth and display your hidden talent to others. Over the years, this industry has transformed into one that welcomes talent with open arms, and if you have a gift for cuisine, this is truly one of the most fulfilling and profitable fields to further your career. Being famous for something you are extremely passionate about is an amazing feeling, that few things can top. So go for it!
What are your main achievements in your career?
I took my culinary skills and wowed the local crowd by being crowned the Best Maldivian Chef thrice in the Hotel Asia Culinary Challenge (2012, 2015, 2016) but something didn’t sit well. My hunger and determination for success drove me further out to compete with the best chefs around the continent in culinary challenges where I’d go on to win a glorious silver medal for this nation in the Culinary Challenge based in Hong Kong (HOFEX). The tireless pursuit to critical acclaim and for the world to understand my genius, I was never truly content with any wins - it was always, on to the next.
Perhaps the proudest moment of my career to day arrived in the year of 2017, where I was, chosen as the Master of Seasoning in Dubai at an internationally renowned event organised by Knorr. This win was exceptional in its nature because of the rigorous competition in place as I was put against the leading chefs from eight Asian and Middle Eastern countries. No Maldivian is yet to achieve a feat similar to this on a scale this grand, which made it feel like an even bigger accomplishment.
Apart from this event, I am proud of winning a silver medal in the Great Chefs Competition in China, a bronze medal at the same event for 3rd place and several other golds, silvers and bronzes to adorn my trophy cabinet in the Hotel Asia Exhibition & Culinary Challenges over the years. Now, I am also currently a judge for the 'World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS)'.
Where can we find you on social media and follow your day to day culinary updates?
You can follow my journey on Instagram @chef_fatheen.
Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
Over the next few years, I want to explore and develop my skills and dexterity in the field of culinary arts. I am driven to be the best at what I do and I want to work where I can perfect my craft, take on interesting projects and work with people I can really learn from. Some of the most innovative thinkers in the industry work here in The Maldives, and that why I would love to continue building my career here.
We hope you enjoyed this blog post, alongside discovering Chef Fatheen and being inspired by his successful and impressive culinary arts journey.
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