About the Academy

The Academy is the mechanism used to create the Middle East & North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants list. None of the employees of any of the sponsors associated with the awards, including the main sponsor, votes or has any influence over the results.

The Academy is comprised of 250 members, each selected for their expert opinion of the Middle East and North Africa restaurant scenes. To create the Academy, and provide a fair representation of the continent, we divide the area into six separate voting regions.

Each region is headed up by a chairperson, called the Academy Chair, appointed for their knowledge of and network within their part of the restaurant world. The Chairs each select a voting panel, ensuring a balanced selection of chefs, restaurateurs, food/restaurant journalists and well-travelled gourmets.

Learn more about the how the voting works

The Academy Chairs

  • Aljohara Almogbel

    Aljohara Almogbel

    Academy Chair: Saudi Arabia

    Aljohara Almogbel is a practising lawyer but is equally a dedicated food enthusiast and avid traveller. She held the role of regional editor for Destination Riyadh for a number of years, and currently documents her family’s culinary adventures on Two Boots and a Farwa, a blog she runs with her sister, Sara. Aljohara and Sara also co-host a weekly podcast called The Story Behind, which showcases leading restaurateurs in the region.

  • Claudia de Brito

    Claudia de Brito

    Academy Chair: Gulf region

    A Portuguese-Cape Verdean, born in Singapore and raised in the UAE, Claudia de Brito’s professional journey has been as non-linear as her background. She started her career in TV sales then moved into film journalism before settling on hospitality as her field of expertise. De Brito has covered F&B in the region for close to a decade as the editor of leading publications, including Caterer Middle East. She is now a freelance writer and consultant.

  • Leen Al Zaben

    Leen Al Zaben

    Academy Chair: Levant-plus

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    A culinary entrepreneur from Amman, Jordan, Leen Al Zaben has worked and lived across multiple continents. Introduced to great food at an early age, Al Zaben’s passion and expertise lie in storytelling through food as a means of bringing people together. She practices this through cooking, photography, writing and interactive culinary workshops. Al Zaben previously worked at June, a kitchen technology start-up based in San Francisco, before returning to her homeland.

  • Mohamed El Baroudi

    Mohamed El Baroudi

    Academy Chair: North Africa (West)

    The CEO of a luxury tea company that exports its products to five continents, Mohamed El Baroudi is based in Marrakech in his native Morocco. For business and leisure, he travels extensively around the world and uses his trips to discover new restaurants and dining experiences. He has a broad knowledge of the food scenes of Morocco, the MENA region and beyond.

  • Roy Yerushalmi

    Roy Yerushalmi

    Academy Chair: Israel

    Celebrated travel journalist and culinary historian Roy Yerushalmi has written for a multitude of international publications for two decades. His features, wine selections and recipes are published weekly in Israel’s Globes financial newspaper and the Rex culinary recommendations site, the latter of which he founded. Yerushalmi splits his time between Tel Aviv and The Princes' Islands in Istanbul, where he’s working on his first cookbook, based on Israeli cuisine and his Turkish-Sephardic heritage.

  • Sherif Tamim

    Sherif Tamim

    Academy Chair: North Africa (East)

    A food, lifestyle and travel photographer from a family of artists, Sherif Tamim grew up in a variety of countries. Now based in Cairo, but regularly travelling across MENA and the world, he has a personal and professional passion for food-based travel experiences, exploring everything from street food to award-winning fine dining restaurants.