In a past interview, we once described Chef Adlah Al-Sharhan as an eclectic ball of energy. She rather identifies with the term, ‘organized chaos’. Between tailoring specialized cooking lessons and consulting prospective restauranteurs at the Umami Culinary Consulting & School, and conducting her research in the field of nutritional development, Chef Adlah Al-Sharhan is now taking her expertise into television programming.
She may not "technically" be putting her hands into television programming, yet her personality easily transforms the mundane proceedings of televised cooking into an adventure. In her latest hit cooking show, Keshta, Chef Adlah’s bubbing personality makes for a fun, food-loving cooking show, where she drives around Kuwait in her fully kitted-out Kesh-truck exploring new places and meeting new people while cooking her favorite, popular (and not so popular) recipes. A spontaneous personality by nature, Chef Adlah’s comedic touch adds an inimitable energy to cooking and television viewing alike, completely eliminating the notion of measurements and any commercial studio involvement. Ranking as one of the most viewed shows during the Ramadan season where viewers are bombarded with soap operas and dramatic shows, Keshta stood out as one of the most entertaining and informative, as Chef Adlah showcases her unique cooking skills, provides tips on nutrition while interviewing a range of interesting personalities at different local destinations.
Uncovering cooking destinations is truly no easy feat, especially when combined with the challenging task of gathering ingredients and incorporating a guest interviewee. Chef “Adoolah”, however, makes it look completely effortless in the now famous Kesh-truck, which she considers one of the show’s winning elements. Created by the award-winning Kuwaiti company, International Design Systems (IDS), the mobile cooking studio provides Chef Adlah with all the comforts and requirements of a modern day kitchen, or better yet, her kitchen. Equipped with a mechanical sliding hood, passer-bys stop still in their tracks, mesmermized by the appetizing aromas whafting from the fully integrated grill and by Chef Adlah’s daily celebration of her love for food and life.
On a different occasion, however, we find ourselves completely tantalized by a rising aroma coming from Chef Adlah’s catering kitchen. Taking the time out of her busy schedule, while also preparing for a large catering event, Chef Adoolah kindly allows us in for an interview about Keshta and her future plans. “This is just like the show, only I have more room to move around in my kitchen.” She states excitedly. “I think chaos makes me more creative, I love that I react without thinking twice about my next ingredient because cooking is completely emotional and reactionary.” The unknowing spectator would easily wish to run away from the exhilarating mess, the craziness and the nonstop hectic atmosphere. From home-made ice-cream, to a freshly prepared ravioli with Prawn mousse filling, braising beef and boiling potatoes, Chef Adlah easily integrates our arrival into the cooking process, handing us a knife and some tomatoes, “Chop these up please, and then add some sugar to the custard.” She smiles, and we immediately understand that we have entered her precious world which she likes to effectively describe as organized chaos.
What spurred on the idea of Keshta?
I always wanted to do this. After starting the Supper Club, I realized that I love to teach people in a different way and wanted to reach out to the masses, so it is a natural progression. I’ve never done anything like this before but I’m oddly comfortable as I feel like it’s me. It wasn’t strange going from the classroom to being in front of a camera. I forget about the camera and rarely notice it.
Why did you choose the name Keshta?
The word Keshta is actually a Persian word, another name for Kashti, which means, ship. People associate Kashta with the desert, yet it started in the sea and with the progression of language, the term changed. That’s why we settled on this name; a moving car in the Kuwaiti desert.
What’s your favorite kind of cuisine to cook for the show?
There isn’t a certain kind; it is “Adoolah’s” cuisine, which I have acquired from working all over the place. My touch is a twist on the traditional as I like to put my roots into anything I do. Whether it is a memory of a certain food, or technique, I like to create what I’m feeling. For instance, I make harissa merengue. The Harissa tastes like the traditional porridge, yet has the lightest texture.
My favorite kind of cuisine is pan Asian, or modern Australian food. I LOVE that all the cultures are intermingled and that there are cultural aspects from Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic to Western, it is truly a wonderful blend.
Is it your first time doing a TV cooking show?
I’ve done a miniseries called Sea and Spice, also as a separate private project.
Do you worry about competition? How do you deal with it?
Why should I? Let them copy me and I will come up with something else. That’s the fun of it all. By the way, imitation is no easy accomplishment. Having the knowledge AND patience is not easily attained or copied as you have to be very passionate about cooking.
Not anyone is a chef, if you work for ten years in a commercial kitchen, managing a full kitchen with at least six people under you, then you would be considered a chef. I’ve seen this happen with people who ask for concepts to be created, then completely fail to carry on managing a concept. Being a chef has a business side, how to manage and delegate, teach and mentor, these are all diligently earned qualities gained from experience.
Would you like for the show to only be aired during Ramadan, or do you hope to create it into a an ongoing series?
As a start, the show was intentionally planned for Ramadan. For quite some time, however, we thought we wouldn’t be able to make it in time. The weather wasn’t cooperating; we were on a tight schedule as we constantly moved around and had to wait for many circumstantial opportunities to occur. Yes, I would love for the show to continue.
Future plans for Keshta?
We will be back with season two, and hopefully expand the Keshta concept around the Gulf as well as the rest of the Middle East. I wish to take it everywhere, from Kuwait to Cairo.
Are you camera shy?
CAMERA SHY? Do they direct me? I don’t notice the director, or to be more specific, I can’t be directed. All jokes aside, I love our director. He creatively inspires me to be myself on the show and doesn’t interfere with my cooking. But with six cameras, he was able catch things that other cameras may have missed from certain angles. Hassle free cooking for me, yet a complete hassle for the production team!
How would you describe your management style in the kitchen?
I love to bring the seed of an idea into the kitchen and then work with my chefs to refine it. I’m also very much inspired by my environment and the places I live. I am flexible when it comes to adapting to new situations and places, which I feel translates into my cooking.
How do you come up with the recipes and interviewees for the show?
I interview people I wish to promote, who I believe are worth mentioning regardless of who they are and how they are perceived by society. I’d like to show Kuwait that we have local talent and that we are much better than the West. We have plenty of Arabs who are competent. The recipes are never planned, they are mostly created on the spot and then they are modified if they are classical recipes of mine. Whatever I find at the farms, whatever comes to mind, that’s what I work with on the show. The beauty of it is the spontaneity. I love doing this. I love cooking, and get a high off the chaos.
So what’s next after Keshta?
Upon completing several consulting projects in and around Kuwait, I am truly looking forward to finally opening up my own restaurant! It will include serving breakfast, hearty, deli-style, freshly-prepared lunches that could be taken away or consumed on the premises, and finally dinner will be amazing as the ambience changes at night to include fine dining. I can’t wait!