There’s so much I can say about Latifah Al Sayed Omar and this little introduction will not serve its purpose well. In short, Latifah is a Kuwaiti-Spanish girl who speaks English, Arabic and Spanish fluently. She has played tennis in the Kuwaiti National Team, she was a big help for me and my friends when we were setting up in Madrid and she’s pretty much one of the strongest women I know. After completing her Master, Latifah was confused about what she would do next. Playing tennis is one of her passions, however getting back into the game would require a lot of time and training. Latifah then discovered a viable business opportunity: Cooking Paella in Kuwait.
How did Latifah Start?
Being Kuwaiti-Spanish, Latifah searched for the link in these two cultures; the rice. During her four years as an undergraduate in Spain, Latifah was able to learn the foundations of the dish from her uncle. “He would make a paella almost every Sunday and I would be there assisting him and watching the techniques and the way it’s cooked and what should be done first and so on” says Latifah, “I practiced and practiced, tried different restaurants, learned tips and techniques from my uncle and different people who cook paella until I was able to perfect the taste, the rice texture and everything that had to be put together in order to make the most delicious paella ever that I could make.” In order for Latifah’s dish to be authentic, she’d have to get down to the roots of making the dish; it wouldn’t make sense for her to take it to the Middle East without preserving the authenticity.
Preserving the flavor
But then how would she know if it was authentic? That’s where Latifah decided that she take her advantage of her time in Madrid. Who better to judge the authenticity than the blunt and honest opinions of your Spanish family and friends? “I cooked for my family and my friends and just enjoyed seeing the satisfaction in their face after their first bite and it was the most fulfilling feeling in the world; when you put so much passion, determination and hard work into something, you are satisfied by the mere enjoyment of friends and family.”
The birth of a cook
As her undergraduate years matured, so did Latifah’s cooking techniques. Latifah learned the exact quantities, and right amount of time for the dish to cook and she learned how to get that succulent seafood paella taste. As more and more friends in Spain tried her cooking, they mentioned that no place in Kuwait offered such delicious, authentic dishes. Latifah’s personality was enough for her dish to be deemed credible in that she was able to bring the best of both worlds into one dish. “I decided on ‘Leti’s Paella’, because my name in Spanish is Leticia and many family and friends called me Leti, so for me it was the perfect name to call my business and in every paella dish I made, a part of my passion, determination and work was given to the people who try it and the satisfaction that comes from people enjoying my paella dish is priceless.”
Paella & beyond
With the foundation built, the real work came along. Buying the paella pans, spices from Spain and setting up the delivery service in Kuwait were some of the tasks. A recurring obstacle with all our entrepreneurs is apparent here. “Marketing the product that I was selling and reaching out to the people so they get to know you is the hardest part of all. Getting the business up and running and then building up the necessary word of mouth is critical to the dish’s success.”
When Leti set out on her venture, her aim wasn’t to cook. Her aim was to do what her very good friend told her to do: “build a culinary bridge between both Kuwait and Spain; you’re the embodiment of that so who better?”
Follow her cooking adventures on Instagram @letis_paella.