I grew up as the eldest of five children, four girls and a boy, in a time when there were not as many opportunities for women as there are today. But our culture was evolving, and I had goals I wanted to achieve.
I come from a diverse household. My maternal grandmother is German, and my mother was raised in Germany, which is where she met my father. They later moved to Saudi Arabia. They spoke to each other in English, and my mom would speak to us in German before she learned to speak Arabic with us as we grew up.
When I was a teenager, my grandparents moved to Saudi Arabia and traveled back and forth between the Kingdom and Germany. The German culture had a great influence on us growing up, from the food we cooked to the rules and curfews we had to follow, with my mom as the enforcer.
She did not know many people when we moved to Jeddah, so she immersed herself in cookery books. As a result, food became an important part of our lives. The dishes served to us always seemed different from those typically served up to everyone else. Every day my mother experimented with new recipes, from filet Milanese to ravioli.
From a young age, therefore, food has been my passion — but I never imagined I could make a career out of it. I loved cooking but it was not common at the time for young people to go to culinary school and train as chefs. So, I practiced and taught myself, with my mother’s influence providing the foundation for my self-taught culinary education.
At college, I majored in international business and marketing, and after graduating in 1999, I started a career in marketing. However, I began to realize that this was not something I wanted to do for the rest of my life — I wanted to cook.
My entrepreneurial instincts began to awaken. I wanted to pursue my passion and make a career of it by creating healthy and wholesome food. I undertook culinary studies and attended workshops, not to further my career but because I wanted the knowledge.
When I decided to establish a high-end catering service, it was a risky move — an all-or-nothing bet. I would either hit the ground running and succeed or fail and have to find something else to do. I risked everything by opening a catering company called BMK, in 2013.
A woman managing her own firm was one thing, but my decision to start a business in catering and cooking was also a surprise to many, as they considered this a sector most commonly served by specialized and renowned companies.
Nevertheless, I took the risk and, to the surprise of some, I succeeded because I focused on a specific niche market, serving clients that understood and appreciated uniqueness and authenticity.
I am first and foremost a mom and that helps to guide my entrepreneurial spirit. Commercial success is secondary to being a parent and role model for my daughters.
After seeing the success of the catering services, I opened a small cafe where for a while I sold baked goods while studying the market. After a brief venture, I took a sabbatical before moving on to the next best thing.
I received great reviews for my simple dishes made from quality ingredients, and this gave me the motivation to open my first restaurant, The Social Kitchen. With it, I hoped to recreate the success of my cafe but on a larger scale, with the space I needed to truly test my creativity.
I also run an online lifestyle store called The Social Kollective. I curate the items it sells and only offer products I believe in and use myself.
I expanded my business to create the Social Group, through which my team and I manage and develop food and beverage concepts.
It has been a great journey, filled with incredible experiences, challenges, and successes.
In 2019, we launched a Social Kitchen pop-up during Jeddah Season. I managed and curated other pop-ups at the MDL Beast music festival in Riyadh last December, and at Oia Beach Resort in the summer.
I have put a lot of love and effort into growing my concept during the past seven years and I am proud of the journey. I think what sets me apart is that what I do is who I am — it is my passion, and it is how I live my life. What I use in my restaurant is what I use at home. I create personal relationships with my guests because I love people, and every project and experience add another layer to who I am.
It is funny sometimes to hear people say that what you do does not define who you are — on the contrary, in my case what I do is precisely who I am: I am a mother and a caretaker, and I feed, nourish, and love to take care of everyone.
I am first and foremost a mom and that helps to guide my entrepreneurial spirit. For me, commercial success is secondary to being a parent and role model for my daughters.
I am proud of what I have accomplished in my career while also being a mom and raising my children. I had to find a way to balance these two parts of my life — but I would not have it any other way. I want to lead the way along a path that they can follow and be proud of.
Follow Basma Elkhereiji
Instagram: @basmaelkhereiji @thesocialkitchen.ksa, @thesocialspace.ksa, @thesocialkollective.ksa
Facebook: @thesocialkitchen.ksa, @TheSocialKollectiveKSA