22/05/2024 09:35 PM

By Noor Shamsiah Mohamed @ Ismail

MAKKAH, May 22 (Bernama) -- Despite having to leave their families and close their businesses for over two months, two restaurant owners were undeterred in their pursuit of blessings by serving the Duyufurrahman (guests of Allah) this year.

Anas Ahmad, 35, and Ismadi Sulaiman, 47, view the opportunity to cook for Hajj pilgrims as a blessing not to be missed because such golden opportunities are rare. 

"This is my second opportunity to serve in Makkah. Last year, I was here as a chef, and this year, I'm grateful to be entrusted with the responsibility of head chef.

"What motivates me to return is that these pilgrims are VVIP guests invited by Allah, so serving them is an act of worship in itself.

"I can’t afford to donate money. My contribution lies in my skills and energy to serve the Malaysian Hajj pilgrims," Anas told media practitioners at a kitchen where food is prepared for Malaysian Hajj pilgrims.

Anas, who owns a Western-style restaurant in Perlis, has no regrets about having to close his restaurant for two months.

He believes that sustenance is divinely ordained and feels that his income has always been sufficient after serving in the Holy Land during last year's Hajj season.

"I used to work 12 hours (at the restaurant) but now I only work 4 hours in my business. It's enjoyable because even though the hours are short, it's enough. The returns are not much but it is enough to meet the needs of my family," he said.

Commenting on the challenges of being the head chef, he highlighted that in addition to communication issues, he must be creative in managing limited ingredients to ensure the food's quality and taste meet the preferences of Malaysian pilgrims.

"The most challenging dishes on the menu are those that require a lot of spices, such as lemongrass, ginger, and galangal. These ingredients are quite hard to find here. Sometimes we have to look hard for them, so it's quite difficult to get the same taste as back home," he explained.

He noted that his 15 years of experience as a chef will be tested in Arafah and Mina where the kitchen facilities are limited and he has to cook within a designated time for the needs of many Malaysian pilgrims.

As for Ismadi, who has 10 years of experience in the hospitality industry and owns a restaurant in Puchong, applying to serve during this Hajj season was a challenge he wanted to take on, as it is said that cooking for Hajj pilgrims is demanding.

"I have never been away from my family, but I came here intending to strive in the way of Allah. Whatever our intentions, insya-Allah, they will be made easy. I closed my business in Taman Putra Perdana, Puchong, for 60 days. I'm not afraid of losses because sustenance comes from Allah," he said.

Ismadi and Anas are among 20 Malaysian chefs working in eight kitchens for a food preparation company appointed by Tabung Haji to provide lunch and dinner for Malaysian pilgrims during the 1445H/2024 season.





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