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The Worlds of Flavor at CIA

Khulood Atik of the United Arab Emirates

Isn’t she beautiful! 
The United Emirates Arab’s first female national Chef Khulood, as she is known, since 2008, when she took her first professional cooking role.
I was fortunate to meet her during my recent visit to the Napa Valley & surrounding areas.
I had two meetings arranged in the area, when I randomly met Heinz J. Lehmann @ The French Laundry.
He had a strong German accent & looks like a Rockstar; entourage & all.  He rattled off a bunch of stuff in German then said “join us @ the CIA just up the road, it’s going to be fun- come! come!“.  What a character!  I thought I might head up that way & check it out- I didn’t have an agenda & was curious about the culinary institute.

I stopped & shopped at Dean & Deluca, then wandered farther north toward the CIA (Saint Helena).
I couldn’t have missed it if I tried, it’s such a striking building- I quickly whipped a U to get to the handsome building erected in 1888.

I wiggled my way into the valet parking area, then filled my arms with colorful tissue-wrapped Pepper Jellies & pockets with business cards & went for the grand entrance-  Foodies swarming in every direction.  Greeted at the first checkpoint, I was the only person sans “pass” for the 3-day convention that was well underway.  I gifted the “powers that be” with Pepper Jelly as capitol & gingerly inquired if I could just “pop-in” to check out the building for about 15 minutes.  Everyone was well receiving, gracious & allowed me in.  The main checkpoint presented the “program consultant” & he greeted me with a welcoming smile, heard my story, took the bribe & suggested I zip into the cooking demonstration that was about to begin by Ms. Atiq of the United Arab Emirates.

Ms. Khulood Atiq demonstated how to make her Grandmother’s Spicy Shrimp Dish-
She was perfectly at ease in front of enormous room chalked-full of people; cameras flashing & television screens in every direction.  She remained unscathed as fuses blew & didn’t allow her use of electrical utensils (the CIA team swiftly had the electrical sorted out).  Ms. Atiq joyously cooked on- stayed calm, & proudly announced that she is the first Master Chef to leave her country!

Later in the evening, Ms. Atiq served me some of her Grandmother’s Spicy Shrimp- It was delicious!
Her opulent use of colorful, fragrant spices in the “secret sauce” made it complete.  She shared the “secret” during the demonstration earlier-  

You can read more on Ms. Atiq here.

The joy of being surrounded by culinary aficionados, learning their techniques & contrasting compositions was so much fun- but I was becoming aware of the time closing in on my joy-  I literally turned to go when a handsome, chivalrous fellow appeared & placed a “pass” around my neck, he said “take this before they eat you alive in here”.  I’m sure my smile went from ear to ear as I stood there- I thanked him & ran along to the next event, sampling foods & titillating libations from around the world- From one end of the ginormous room to the other, & back again & again…

I enjoyed every single moment & I couldn’t get the silly grin off my face for a few days…
I was exactly where I wanted to be- I was in ♥ with life, & feeling blessed.

Something tells me it was the same mystery man that placed the “pass” around my neck that may also have  graced my hotel room ‘welcome mat’ with fresh roses, Jalapeño bagels, cream cheese, milk & orange extract(?)- really?
Thank you!
  The memory will forever be in my ♥

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