With the rapid rise of female talent across the country, the intricate art of cooking is definitely one to explore. eniGma’s Iman Nayel sat down with some of Egypt’s top-tier young chefs to learn more about their fascinating culinary journeys.
by Nour El Sadat & Soraya Aboul Nasr
Soraya Aboul Nasr and Nour El Sadat, two of Egypt’s finest young homegrown chefs, founded Cookery Co. with their third partner, Amina Hassaan, in 2015. Aboul Nasr and Sadat have been cooking ever since they can remember. Over time, the two realised that their passion for cooking went beyond just a hobby, so they decided to pursue culinary studies at Le Cordon Bleu in France, which gave them a proper base of the craft while nurturing their own creativity. Sadat is also a California certified ServSafe handler, with a full grasp of food hygiene regulations. These regulations are audited on a monthly basis by an international company that Cookery Co. hired. Cookery Co. first started as a catering service while also hosting pop-up dinners, but Sadat and Abul Nasr always dreamed of opening their own restaurant. As demand for their cooking rapidly increased, they established their summer restaurant in the North Coast, three years ago. In the meantime, they cater all year round, offering a range of open buffet selections, five-course meals and cold/hot finger food. Clients can even send their own serving plates which the girls will set-up and deliver ready-to-serve! The main ingredients in the Cookery Co.’s recipe for success seem to be the values they uphold, including honesty, consistency and openness to learn. “We live by these values not only on a personal level but also as a collective Cookery Co. family,” the chefs emphasise. “We both have that grandmother instinct. We want to feed people to the point of triggering that little happy dance which signals happy taste buds,” they exclaim. And as their Cookery Co. motto asserts, they do everything “for the love of food,” which is evident through the unmatched quality of their food, their creative recipes and their distinctive presentation.
Dina Hosny & Aida Shaaban
After graduating from university, Dina Hosny worked in social media for a year, where she formed connections with people in the food industry, which in turn sparked her passion for food. This led to her decision to embark on a culinary adventure, which started with going to cooking school. On the other hand, Aida Shaaban was passionate about cooking since childhood; from a young age, she was always experimenting in the kitchen, and eventually followed her dream of going to culinary school as well. Hosny and Shaaban are currently offering catering and cooking classes while trying to branch out into different things; but are still undecided about their choice of direction. “Restaurants should be run by passionate chefs, as opposed to business people,” sums up their conviction on what is the main challenge in their field in Egypt. Both Hosny and Shaaban love cooking with seasonal ingredients, which, they say, almost always complement one another. “It’s nature’s way of telling you to use these ingredients, which is how we create dishes,” they declare, adding, “Recently more and more young chefs are starting to educate themselves, whether at home, abroad or online; everyone is taking their own route. People are willing to narrow the bridge between the self-education and day-to-day restaurant work, which is great. But there is always plenty of room for growth.” Hosny and Shaaban love to transform local ingredients to create something truly unique. For their last event, they made Seman with Tamr Hendy sauce, which was a huge hit.
Lulu’s Kitchen by Alia Askalany
Alia Askalani, the founder of Lulu’s Kitchen, has spent much of her life in the kitchen. Having been raised by and around amazing cooks, she was always passionate about cooking and delicious food. After completing her studies at Le Cordon Bleu, she came back to Egypt where she shared her expertise by giving cooking classes, a concept that was somewhat rare at the time. Askalani eventually opened Lulu’s kitchen, offering catering services, pop-up dinners, and menu consultancy. One pop up dinner that she hosted in Lebanon was particularly memorable. “I created an enhanced fusion Egyptian menu that will forever alter people’s perceptions of Egyptian cuisine,” Askalani recalls. “I aspire to offer people an international culinary adventure; I love feeding people dishes that leave them with a distinctive memory,” she adds. Askalani studied further at the Florence Culinary Arts School, where she “was inspired by the beautiful Italian countryside and distinct cuisine,” she recounts. Determined to expand her knowledge even more, Askalani is planning to pursue agro-culinary studies in the next few months. “I want to learn about everything we eat, from the root/tree/mountain and beyond – until it reaches the table,” she declares. Aspiring to collaborate with international chefs in the future and to create her own line of high-quality chutneys and sauces, Askalani believes that “the sky is the limit, I get as creative as I can with what I’ve got.”
Gracias by Peri Saleh
Located in Capital Business Park, Sheikh Zayed City, Gracias Latin kitchen is owned by Peri Saleh, one of Egypt’s most passionate, rising women chefs. “I’ve always loved hosting people. I would buy cookbooks and invite my friends and family over for dinner,” Saleh asserts. “One day I decided to quit my corporate job and go to Latin America, where I discovered an untapped world of fine cuisine. and this is where I found myself and decided to bring it to Egypt,” she explains. Saleh earned her culinary degree from the Italian Chef Academy in Rome and went on to do an internship with Michelin chef, Cristina Bowerman shortly after. “It was a very interesting learning experience, working alongside such an eccentric Michelin star chef,” Saleh recalls. She then furthered her knowledge with a course at Le Cordon Bleu and went on to work with Eatery and other restaurants, offering not only her practical skills but also menu consultancy and development. Being the founder and head chef at Gracias, she handles everything from social media to finance management, menu development and staff training, as well as offering full catering services. While Latin cuisine is a rare and difficult cuisine to master, Saleh loves a challenge, and with the 40 main ingredients she uses, she experiments and creates different kinds of dishes for her menu. “I’m proud of my work ethic. I get up every morning yearning to make an impact and leave my imprint on the market,” she proudly declares.