Chef Ajwad – 2023 FHAM Best Maldivian Chef | Lonumedhu

Chef Ajwad – 2023 FHAM Best Maldivian Chef

Category: Interviews


by Iyath Adam


We interview Chef Ajwad Abdull Wahaab, chef de partie at JOALI Maldives who won the 2023 FHAM Best Maldivian Chef last year. 

Here, we have a chat with him about his recent wins, what actually goes into winning competitions and his thoughts on the current resort culinary world. 


Lonumedhu: First of all, how did you end up becoming a chef? What got you interesting in the culinary industry?

Ajwad: I actually wasn’t focused on the culinary industry at first. I wanted to get into the resort sector, but I didn’t know whether I wanted to be a chef or not. While applying for the Four Seasons Hospitality Apprenticeship programme, I was researching different available opportunities and decided to go forward in Food & Beverage. But even during that time, I used to help my mum and family around in the kitchen while they were cooking, so there was a slight interest there. 

When I first started the culinary training, I didn’t like it THAT much but by the time I finished the one-year programme, I was really into culinary work. 

Lonumedhu: Tell us about your experience in the industry.

Ajwad: I’ve been working in the industry for six years now. After completing my apprenticeship at Four Seasons Kuda Huraa, I joined the pre-opening team of Vakkaru Maldives where I worked for one year. At both of these jobs, I worked as a commis chef. Then, I joined JOALI Maldives, where I’m currently working. I started out as a demi chef but now I’m a chef de partie. I’ve been here for four years now. 


Lonumedhu: You recently won 3 medals at the Pakistan International Culinary Championship and you were crowned as the ‘Best Maldivian Chef’ at the 2023 FHAM Global Culinary Challenge. What did that feel like? 

Ajwad: It was honestly a dream come true. 

When I first started working in the industry, I used to work with Chef Adil, who’s my inspiration and the one who encouraged me to participate in culinary competitions. I actually had no interest in it but he pushed me to go with him and compete in at least one category. 

My first culinary competition was Hotel Asia 2019, where I won 1st Place - Silver in ‘Fish – Live Cooking’ category. That’s where my interest in culinary competitions started. Chef Adil was the FHAM Best Maldivian Chef at the time, and I wanted to achieve that, so this was really a full circle moment for me. 

Lonumedhu: How do you prepare for culinary competitions?

Ajwad: In culinary competitions, there are different categories – seafood, lamb, beef etc… I get to choose the categories in which I’ll participate, and the organisers will provide the ingredeints, but I have to plan the whole dish and think of a way to execute it flawlessly within the set 45 minutes.  

So, when a new competition nears, I’d start practicing one month beforehand, developing different combinations and the presentations to see what works best. And we have to be ready for questions from the judges regarding the dishes and why you chose certain flavours. For example, there are certain flavours that don’t go with beef, so if you use that, then it means the whole dish is wrong. 

Because I’ve been working in the industry for about six years, I can tell which ingredients go well together. But I always give chefs around me to taste my dishes and take in their feedback to perfect the flavours.  

Lonumedhu: How much work went into winning the 2023 FHAM Best Maldivian Chef?

Ajwad: It was two months of work, no break. It was actually really busy here during that period, so I would practice at my break times. I used to try out different combinations of dishes. When there was about a week left for the competition, I would stay back after my duty times to practice and make sure I could complete each dish within the allocated time. 

But it was all worth it. I participated in five categories: hot-cooking lamb, hot-cooking beef, hot-cooking poultry, hot-cooking seafood, and traditional & modern Maldivian meal. I won two gold medals, two silver medals, and one bronze medal. 


Lonumedhu: What do you like to cook during your spare time? 

Ajwad: In my spare time, I like to learn new cooking techniques and plating.

Lonumedhu: What do you think about the current Maldivian culinary industry? Is there room for it to really shine in fine dining?

Ajwad: Yes, definitely. Maldivian cuisine can definitely be elevated, but it can only be done by giving it a modern twist, creating fusion flavours and changing the way it’s presented. The main flavours in Maldivian cuisine are tuna and coconut, but by adding a variety of other ingredients, you can enhance the flavour. 

Working with Maldivian flavours is something I’m actually really interested in. I used to prepare Maldivians dishes in both modern and traditional styles for guests before. So for example, I’ll make a dish like fihunumas both ways and explain the difference in taste and presentation to them.


Lonumedhu: What’s next for you, career-wise?

Ajwad: I think I will make sous chef within the next 3-4 years, which is what I’m working towards right now. 

Lonumedhu: Are there opportunities for Maldivian chefs to advance in the resort culinary world?

Ajwad: Yes, there are. And I think there are many Maldivian executive chefs now too. 

But the thing is, you have to learn and be willing to learn from different chefs specialised in different cuisines. You must have a strong base of knowledge and good people managing skills as well. And you should work on developing yourself and your skills. Anyone can go forward and advance in this industry, but you have to really put in the effort to do that. 

Lonumedhu: What advice do you have for young people who might want to go forward in the resort culinary field? 

Ajwad: The resort industry, it’s really the best industry to choose. Especially within the culinary field, there are more positions and levels which means you can go further compared to other areas in the industry. And the work is always interesting because you’ll always be cooking different styles and dishes. 

Lonumedhu: Thank you so much for your time, Ajwad. We wish you the best of luck in all your future competitions! 



Eating Out

Curry Recipes

Hedhikaa Recipes

Dessert Recipes

Chicken Recipes

Rice Recipes

About Lonumedhu

Lonumedhu is about eating great food right here in the Maldives.

Our easy to follow recipes use locally available ingredients.

In our blog you will find food news, interviews with chefs and cooks, useful information about eating out and other foodie reads. 




© 2017-2023. All rights reserved. No part of this website may be reproduced without the written permission of the publisher.

Advertisers has partnered with Qualia Pvt Ltd, a publishing & marketing agency, for its desktop and mobile advertising.

Advertising enquiries should be directed to (960) 987 4396 or

Keep in Touch