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Taste of Maldives: an Italian-Maldivian love story told through food



Unrivalled luxury, stunning white-sand beaches and an amazing underwater world make the Maldives an obvious choice for a true holiday of a lifetime. The Indian Ocean island nation is famous world over for its unique natural beauty. Over a million tourists visit its idyllic beach resorts every year to spend their hard earned vacations.

A hefty majority of those visitors is only exposed to the island nation’s white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and lush green vegetation. But there is more to the Maldives than its natural beauty. The country has a rich culture and more of an ancient history than one might suppose. For instance, the architectural styles of tombs and mosques found across the archipelago exhibit the superb craftsmanship of Maldivians.

Like every foreign family on vacation, the Stiatti family too was brought to the Maldives by its natural beauty. When they arrived in the Alimatha resort in Vaavu Atoll almost 25 years ago, it was, as Caludia Stiatti described it, love at first sight. The Italian family, from her mother Orietta Maffei Stiatti to her brother Gian Marco Stiatti, fell in love with not only the beaches and the sea, but also with the relaxed atmosphere in the Maldives.

“Since then, we came back to Alimatha resort once every year,” Claudia says, sitting in front of me at SeaHouse Cafe in capital Male after a tour of the local fish market.

But for the Stiattis, their regular stays in the Maldives went beyond simple stays in a luxury resort. Their love to explore the Maldives resulted in frequent day visits to neighbouring islands, especially Keyodhoo. The family took every opportunity to explore the local culture — from the Maldivian cuisine to almost every aspect of island life and the islanders’ connection to the sea — and interact with locals.

Italians, as it has been said, love food, and what got the Stiattis excited most was also the local cuisine of the islands.

“It’s difficult to find authentic Maldivian food in the resorts. So whenever we went to Keyodhoo, we would have local food with the locals. We realised that the Maldivian cuisine was something special, that it includes healthy ingredients, tasty combinations and many traditional dishes handed down from generation to generation. We absolutely loved it,” Claudia says, listing out some of her absolute favourite Maldivian dishes such as Mashuni (a mixture of dried fish, scrapped coconut, chopped onions and spices) and Bajiya (local variant of samosas).

That love the Stiattis had for Maldivian cuisine culminated into a comprehensive cookbook that covers almost every aspect of local food. The book, titled Taste of Maldives and released last year, has five chapters that represent five of the main ingredients used in Maldivian cuisine: spices, tuna, fish, fruits and coconut. Together with traditional dishes such as Mashuni and Kulhimas (local variant of devilled fish), the 200-page book also includes modern recipes created by infusing local products such as Rihaakuru (fish paste) with international favourites like spaghetti.

But compiling a 200-page book that is available in English, Russian, Italian and Chinese from scratch was no easy task. Claudia and her mother, who co-authored the book, came to “our second home” of Keyodhoo with a food stylist and photographer, and captured the essence of Maldivian cuisine with meticulous styling of dishes and incredible photography. Residents of the island were their biggest help; they provided a list of recipes and made every dish from scratch.

“We had just 10 days to shoot all the recipes. So shootings would go on from morning till late into the night. It was difficult, but we all enjoyed it,” Claudia says.

Taste of Maldives, available for purchase on Amazon and from some local shops in capital Male, has been well-received by locals and visitors alike. The book was voted number two in the Best Book of Asia category at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2016, and has become a must-have at several local guesthouses and resorts including Kuramathi Island Resort.

Orietta (R) poses for a photo at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2016 in China.

It’s been said that there is no love sincerer than the love of food. For Claudia and the entire Stiatti family, their love for food, which stems from their Italian roots, is now intertwined with their love for the Maldives. From helping local entrepreneurs set up and manage guesthouses in several islands including their second home of Keyodhoo to guiding Italians who want to visit the Maldives, the family’s love affair with the Maldives is just beginning.

“Everybody loves the Maldives. We want to tell the story of the Maldives and its people to Italians and everyone else,” Claudia says.

An Insider

Abdulla Wisam: A journey of excellence and growth in the Maldivian hospitality industry



In the heart of the stunning Maldives, where luxury resorts and crystal-clear waters come together to create a paradise on Earth, there are individuals who work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that every guest’s experience is nothing short of exceptional. One such individual is Abdulla Wisam, whose remarkable journey in the hospitality industry is a testament to his dedication, passion, and unwavering commitment to providing the best possible service to guests.

Abdulla Wisam’s journey in the hospitality industry began right after completing his schooling. In 2003, he embarked on his professional career by joining Dhoveli Beach Resort & Spa, where he gained his first taste of the world of hospitality. It was here that he discovered his passion for creating memorable guest experiences and building relationships with visitors from around the world.

After his initial foray into the industry, Wisam’s career path continued to evolve. His dedication and hard work caught the attention of industry leaders, leading him to take on roles of increasing responsibility. His time at Meeru Island Resort saw him as an Outlet Cashier and Night Auditor, roles that allowed him to develop a deep understanding of the operational aspects of a resort.

Wisam’s determination and eagerness to learn led him to the iconic Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru, where he started as a Recreation Attendant. Over time, he showcased his exceptional skills in guest relations and management, and he was promoted to the position of Front Office Supervisor. His journey with Four Seasons served as a stepping stone for what was to come next.

In 2014, Wisam joined the W Maldives, a resort known for its luxurious offerings and unparalleled guest experiences. Starting as a Welcome Team Leader, he quickly rose through the ranks due to his impeccable guest service skills and innate leadership abilities. His promotion to Guest Experience Manager was a testament to his ability to not only meet but exceed guest expectations. He was then transferred to The St. Regis Maldives as the Assistant Front Office Manager with the pre-opening team.

As his career trajectory continued its upward trajectory, Wisam took on the role of Front Office Manager at prestigious resorts such as Milaidhoo Island, Raffles Maldives, and The Standard Maldives. These roles allowed him to refine his management style, hone his problem-solving skills, and contribute to the overall success of each resort.

Wisam’s journey eventually led him to COMO Cocoa Island, a resort renowned for its unparalleled luxury and exquisite attention to detail. Joining as the Front Office Manager, he embraced the challenges and responsibilities that came with the position. His dedication, combined with his innate ability to create genuine connections with guests, led to his promotion as the Director of Rooms.

Wisam’s journey in the Maldivian hospitality industry is a remarkable tale of perseverance, growth, and a genuine passion for creating exceptional guest experiences. His diverse roles, spanning from recreation to guest experience management, have equipped him with a holistic understanding of the industry. His commitment to continuous improvement and dedication to delivering top-tier service have not only benefited the resorts he’s been a part of but have also contributed to elevating the reputation of Maldives as a premier luxury travel destination.

As Wisam continues to shape the guest experience landscape at COMO Cocoa Island, one can only imagine the heights he will reach and the impact he will make on the ever-evolving hospitality industry of the Maldives. His journey stands as an inspiration to aspiring hoteliers and a testament to the boundless opportunities that await those who are truly passionate about their craft.

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An Insider

Hamzath Ameen: Elevating human resources



In the fast-paced and thriving hospitality industry of the Maldives, where exceptional service and guest satisfaction are paramount, there are individuals who stand out for their dedication, expertise, and leadership qualities. Hamzath Ameen is making his mark as a proficient human resources professional in island resorts of the Maldives. With an impressive career trajectory and a passion for excellence, Hamzath has become a respected figure in the industry.

Hamzath Ameen was born and raised in Addu Atoll, a region known for its stunning natural beauty and vibrant culture. Following his schooling, he pursued his higher education at Cyryx College in Male’, where he successfully completed an Advanced Diploma in Business Management. This academic foundation laid the groundwork for his future career in the dynamic world of hospitality.

Hamzath embarked on his professional journey at Dhonveli Beach Resort, where he assumed the role of Accounts Officer. This initial foray into the hospitality industry allowed him to gain valuable insights into the financial aspects of resort operations and the importance of maintaining accurate records and efficient systems.

Eager to expand his horizons and broaden his skill set, Hamzath sought opportunities at various reputable companies and resorts throughout the Maldives. His determination and exceptional work ethic caught the attention of industry professionals, leading to his appointment as the Human Resources Officer at Furaveri Island Resort. Recognizing his potential, Ameen quickly rose through the ranks and was promoted to the position of Assistant Manager, and subsequently, Human Resources Manager.

During his tenure at Furaveri Island Resort, Hamzath made significant contributions to the establishment’s human resources department. He spearheaded various initiatives to enhance employee engagement, streamline recruitment processes, and foster a positive work culture. Under his leadership, the resort witnessed an increase in employee satisfaction and a notable reduction in turnover rates, solidifying Hamzath’s reputation as a skilled people manager.

In 2022, Hamzath accepted an exciting new opportunity and joined Rihiveli Maldives Resort as the Human Resources Manager. With his wealth of experience and proven track record, he assumed a pivotal role in overseeing the resort’s human resources functions, including recruitment, training and development, performance management, and employee relations. Hamzath’s strategic approach and ability to build strong relationships with staff and management alike have made him an invaluable asset to the resort.

Hamzath Ameen’s journey from an Accounts Officer to a respected Human Resources Manager exemplifies his commitment to personal growth and professional excellence. Through his hard work, dedication, and leadership abilities, he has successfully carved a niche for himself in the competitive Maldivian hospitality industry. Hamzath’s passion for nurturing talent, fostering positive work environments, and delivering exceptional guest experiences continues to make a lasting impact on the resorts he has served.

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An Insider

Chef Mohamed Niyaz on celebrating authentic Maldivian flavours



Introducing the culinary genius who brings alive Kaagé specialty restaurant at VARU By Atmosphere

Chef Mohamed Niyaz is the Maldivian Chef who has breathed life into VARU By Atmosphere’s signature restaurant – Kaagé. In this interview, he speaks about his love for local cuisine and his inspiration. He also shares words of wisdom for budding chefs in the Maldives.

Where are you from? I was born and raised in the beautiful island of Ha. Dhihdhoo, in the Haa Alif Atoll, Maldives.

When did you first fall in love with cooking? Even when I was a kid, I used to spend a lot of time in the kitchen with my mom. I was so intrigued by her amazing cooking skills and how she would prepare all sorts of delicious dishes. I would eagerly watch and learn from her every time she cooked. That’s what inspired me to become a chef myself.

What motivates you? Ever since I was a child, I’ve had a deep passion for both art and cooking. My mother, who is incredibly creative, would whip up imaginative meals. I would often tell her that one day, when I grew up, I would become a chef and cook a special meal just for her. I’m proud to say that I’ve fulfilled that dream.

Tell us a little bit about your journey in the hospitality industry. In 2002, I had the chance to embark on my journey in the tourism industry when I began working as a Commis at Hulhule Island Hotel. Over 16 years, I climbed the ranks and eventually held the position of Chef De Partie at the same hotel. Then, in 2019, an exciting opportunity came my way as I joined VARU by Atmosphere as a Sous Chef. Currently, I am honoured to be working as a Maldivian Chef at the renowned Kaagé restaurant, which is the first of its kind in Atmosphere Core.

What are some of your achievements and awards? Throughout my 20-year career, I have had the privilege of receiving nominations and winning various awards in different competitions and ceremonies. The most recent and special achievement was when I was honoured with the CGM Chefs Award for Outstanding Achievement in 2022. The year 2016 proved to be another successful year, I achieved remarkable accomplishments in international competitions. Securing second place in the Team Challenge and first place in the Foreign Team Challenge at the Chinese Foreign Hotel’s cooking competition, CCTV ‘The Greatest Chefs.’ In addition, I have been participating in the Hotel Asia Culinary Challenge from 2012 to 2022 and have received 12 gold, silver, and bronze awards over the years.

Can you describe Kaagé restaurant for us? Kaagé is the signature Maldivian restaurant at VARU By Atmosphere.  The restaurant is designed as a traditional Maldivian house adorned by heritage photographs and video storytelling. Guests can relish local flavours presented with a progressive twist. We use traditional home cooking methods to ensure the food is fresh, aromatic, and flavourful.

As a chef, what are your preferred local ingredients? Coconut, pandan leaves, Maldivian chilli, and curry leaves hold a special place in my culinary repertoire.

Which dish would you highly recommend to all guests at Kaage? There are a variety of local dishes on our menu. I would recommend guests try Gulha, a deep-fried pastry ball filled with smoked tuna or vegetables and flavoured with finely chopped onion, grated coconut, and chilli. And Kandu Kukhulu, our renowned Maldivian tuna curry, stands out as the most exceptional and beloved dish. It is one of our signature specialties and the rich flavours are sure to leave a lasting impression on our valued guests.

What are your plans for the future? At present, Maldivian cuisine is exclusively available in restaurants within our nation. My aspiration is to present Maldivian specialty cuisine on a global scale.

What guidance would you offer aspiring Maldivian chefs? To the younger generation, I would like to emphasize that Maldivian Cuisine is truly distinctive, and with unwavering dedication and perseverance, you can achieve remarkable heights. In line with a Maldivian saying, “Fass enburi nubala abadhuves hih varaa eku kuriyah dhaan masahkaeh kuraashey, ehves masahkathaky hadi masahkatheh nooney” (loosely translated as, always strive to move forward with courage, without dwelling on the past, as no task is ever considered insignificant).

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