Friday February 23rd, 2024
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This Cordon Bleu Alumni Found Love in Cosy Confectionery

This culinary school is a breeding ground for love in the form of a set of cooking courses.

Layla Raik

The world is split into two distinct categories: those who think of food as love and those who don’t quite get it just yet. This dichotomy begs the question; what makes the difference? What is it that convinces people to see a simple bowl of rice so differently? 

Meticulous inspections of American poet’s Frank O’Hara’s ‘Lunch Poems’ in search for an answer got us nowhere. However, in a conversation with a pioneer in the Egyptian culinary scene and the founder of ‘a la Suzanne’ culinary school Suzanne Mokhtar, we may have just inched closer than ever to the truth. 

Who is Suzanne Mokhtar?

At a very young age, in my early 20s, I started a passion-filled career path under the loving guidance of my mother and grandmother, Syrians who mastered the art of Levantine oriental cuisine. I, like them, breathed the culinary.

Then, with my dad’s support, I decided to turn my passion into a professional career by enrolling in one of the world’s best Culinary Schools, Le Cordon Bleu in London, and graduated with Grand Diplôme right after obtaining the Culinary Training Center diploma in Egypt. It was around this time that I was chosen as brand ambassador for authentic pasta brand ‘Barilla’, joining Barilla Academy in Parma, Italy. I also joined Leiths School of Food and Wine in London, which added to my TV presenting career, after being a TV Chef presenter for a few years. 

To describe myself in a few words, I’m a mother of three who loves being a full-time mum as well as an entrepreneur tirelessly working to achieve my dreams. I love challenges and taking risks, and my life is all about loving my kids & growing my business to have something that one-day people could look at & remember me by. I am loud but humble, a very spontaneous woman who knows how to be seriously organised when it comes to work.

One of my biggest beliefs is the act of adding to my academic career & continuous learning. That’s how I started on the professional consultant & recipe development career path by working with mega F&B corporates & firms by developing their recipes, concepts & menus. I then established my own culinary school teaching amateur & professional food lovers how to cook with confidence & bake with no failure.

How did your love for the culinary arts come to be? 

I gained a lot of my Culinary expertise in different ways, from training in different hotels and restaurants to catering and cooking shows.

I decided to become a professional female chef in 2009, when the culinary field in Egypt was not at all accustomed to female chefs working in industrial kitchens. It was a big challenge trying to be one of them. 

With all the love, my goal is to share my knowledge with my students to help them establish a career path in the food industry. 

What inspired the creation of your culinary academy ‘a la Suzanne’? 

I’ve always wanted to change people’s vision, especially in Egypt, about the culinary field and how learning about food can change their lives. 

‘a la Suzanne’ first started as an online brand for desserts. I started catering from my small kitchen - then only a few years later, I had a bigger vision of expansion. I turned my kitchen into a place that can serve both as a catering hub and a cooking school; a kitchen with industrial equipment & a cosy ambience.

I had so much passion and energy to change people’s perspectives about food because at the time the majority would say cooking and baking is hard or boring. This is what brought on the decision to launch a La Suzanne Cooking School and encourage amateurs to fall in love with food, as well as help those who had a passion for cooking to turn it into a professional career. 

When I look back I feel so grateful that I had a positive impact on some people’s life style and vision about food. Today, a la Suzanne has become the mother brand for catering, online confections & a culinary school. 

Why did you feel compelled to start a culinary school? 

By 2015, at the time a la Suzanne Culinary School was established, there was a shortage of Culinary Schools in Egypt. I wanted to spread my love and knowledge about food and make a change in people’s lives; there are a lot of people who are passionate about food but find it very difficult to start professionally in Egypt. 

I’ve always dreamt of changing people’s perspectives about the culinary field, so I’m thankful I was able to have an impact on the lives and careers of those who had the will and passion.  The necessity for a la Suzanne’s existence is to play a role in changing people’s perspectives on the culinary world, educating individuals about food and how important cooking is in our lifestyle.

On a professional level, its main purpose is to help chefs learn how to cook with standards, have all the knowledge needed for this career as well as teach them how to appreciate & respect food. 

Ultimately, all of this promises a better future in the food industry. 

What brings you the most joy in teaching new people the wonders of the kitchen?  The ultimate source of joy and fulfilment for me is witnessing the transformation a la Suzanne brings into people's lives: a wife who now lovingly prepares comforting meals for her husband instead of relying on ordered or prepared dishes, a mother who creates a home filled with the aroma of delicious food, etching cherished memories into her children's lives, and an individual living independently who has embraced mindful cooking as a daily ritual.

Particularly, teaching young kids and teenagers about the joys of food is the most rewarding; the ability to make a difference in their future at such a young age fills me with gratitude. 

Where do you see ‘a la Suzanne’ in the upcoming years?

I will never try and change the way people see the brand; it will always stay cosy & professional - with a few expansions along the way.

I will keep teaching people how to cook and fall in love with it; it’s a service that’s connected to me personally. I will always make sure to keep the same vibe and provide people with the same experience throughout every course. 

At the end of the day, a la Suzanne was established with the passion to keep people’s love for food growing.