Foodies of Cairo have a new unique hub to showcase their kitchen prowess and discover exciting foreign flavours as the Eatery shapes up to be the community's culinary hub.
Sometimes it feels that every hour a new restaurant is launched in Cairo. Every time, customers are promised a fresh new concept but, more often than not, these places fall short on delivering anything more than just words. Following through with the necessary actions and presenting a vision for culinary experience unlike anything we have ever seen in Egypt is the highly anticipated launch of Cairo Festival City's newest restaurant/cooking school: Eatery. Walking the exciting fine line between being both an educational cooking school and a restaurant boasting a mouth-watering menu, we decide to catch up with concept founders Omar Fathy and Alia Helmy ahead of tonight’s opening to learn more about their plans of turning Eatery into the culinary hub of Cairo.
Entering the Eatery, we were greeted by Fathy and Helmy, standing in front a gorgeously green and totally edible herb wall. Passionate about food, the pair has travelled the world in search of sublime authentic dishes, culinary talents, and gastronomic knowledge to creatively craft an eclectic menu that provide authentic classics for those stuck in their ways, while providing a seasonal rotating globetrotting menu for both healthy and adventurous foodies. “We have a mainstream menu with set items that are always available, and another menu that will change three times a month,” clarifies Fathy. Taking us on a tour of the vivacious space, Fathy explained that “Eatery is about simplicity executed correctly. If we are making pasta, we get the right locally sourced flour to make fresh pasta, from scratch, while making our own sauces using fresh organic ingredients."
Entering the main dining hall, patrons can sit under a majestic tree treated to one of two impressive views. To the right is a window into a kitchen theatre where professional chefs, both domestic and international, prepare your food. To the left, a colourful salad bar adds to the open and inviting atmosphere, shielding the massive Italian imported pizza oven. Respectful of the international cuisines they will recreate at Eatery, Fathy is trying to bring the most authentic tastes from abroad telling us, “We are currently working on getting volcanic soil from a place close to Naples so we can properly grow our own San Marzano tomatoes.”
It is that attention to detail that will make the Eatery stand out; however, providing authentic cuisine can be a double-edged sword, as it can challenge preconceived notions of what many have become accustomed to. According to Fathy, “We are trying to introduce some new items, like the Pizza Napoletana. It’s all about getting the authentic ingredients themselves, which is why we import what we need. The proper Pizza Napoletana, Egyptians might not like it because it’s really runny, very soft, and extremely thin in the centre, but we will test the market and hopefully they will enjoy the authentic difference.”
Emphasising on making everything from scratch, using local and organic ingredients, and introducing the Egyptian market to new foods, the Eatery is on a mission to be a place for beginners to learn and expand their palettes, while being a hub for all dedicated foodies of Cairo seeking diversity. “We feel that people like diversity, and we want to give them healthy and delicious gluten free choices. Sure we will try and deliver ‘The Burger’; but we also want to introduce healthy options like quinoa and wild rice, a black long grain rice that skips the process of the whitening making it much healthier than rice Egyptians have at home.”
The Eatery Classroom
The longer we talked with Fathy the more we were learned about the culinary world, which made perfect sense as the next room we entered looked like a stunning kitchen arena/classroom that could have passed off as the set to a Food Network show like Chopped: Egypt. Equipped with three spectacular cooking stations, the Eatery not only offers a variety of cooking courses that range in time commitment, prices, and experience, it will allow people to book a station ahead of time and allow them to use their tools and ingredients to show off their culinary skills to friends and family. From competitions, culinary festivals, community outreach initiatives and bringing in renowned international chefs showcase their talents, the Eatery is sure to attract a community of foodies that are passionate about trying new cuisines and learning how to make them, as well as those obsessed with making others jealous on Instagram.
Giving us a taste of what people can come to expect, Fathy pulled out his knives, fired up his station, and began preparing a delicious tenderloin steak served with a lightly dressed green bean, chickpea, and quinoa salad. The kitchen can be an intimidating place, leaving many in Egypt relying on someone or some franchise to provide sustenance. However, in a matter of 15 minutes, the humble Fathy, who refuses to accept the moniker of chef, produced a tender melt-in-your-mouth piece of beef perfectly accompanied by a light but delicious quinoa salad. Quinoa is also globally known as a ‘superfood’ for providing several health benefits as it is protein rich and filled with minerals and fibres. Beloved globally, it has started to find its way into the Egyptian market, and Eatery will be using its in-house culinary lab to find new way of making this incredibly healthy grain an Egyptian staple.
With incredibly ambitious plans, Fathy admits he can’t do it alone. “I’m more on the operational side of things, the kitchen, the service staff, and the training, while Alia is in charge of quality control, the marketing, the discipline of the whole operation, and making sure that we are moving forward,” describes Fathy. Opening its doors tonight, Helmy has organised a great way of spreading the word on the culinary hub-to-be. “For the opening we decided not to do a normal party where people just come to eat and take pictures. Instead we're choosing to open the restaurant organically by having influencers come to cook for their guests, so I think it should be a bit more interesting and a bit more outside the box,” Helmy firmly believes.
Considering that everything about Eatery - from its layout and menu to the infinite possibilities of their culinary stages, was conceived outside the box - the opening concept seems only fitting, and it will come as no surprise if Eatery quickly becomes the place to discover and experiment with flavours, proving once and for all that the kitchen isn’t a place to fear, but rather a space to embrace.
To learn more visit their Facebook page here or follow them on Instagram @eateryegypt.
Photoshoot exclusively for CairoScene by @MO4Network #MO4Productions
Photography by Mohamed Diaa