Food, drugs and rock and roll... David Blanks discovers the wild side of the culinary scene.
Food is the new sex. It’s the new rock and roll. It’s a global phenomenon. Today celebrity chefs like Rachel Ray, Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay, Eric Ripert, Thomas Keller, Alain Ducasse, and Ferran Adrià are celebrities. They have their own books, restaurants, websites and television shows. Soon, in addition to chopping garlic and slicing veggies, they will be cutting albums.
There’s even a blog called “Food is the New Rock” where you can find food journalist Anthony Bourdain talking about blues guitarists, Paul McCartney singing about scrambled eggs, and podcasts of musicians talking about food and foodists talking about music.
Last summer at the two-day Great GoogaMooga Festival in Brooklyn, the headliners were Daryl Hall and John Oates. That’s cool, but Woodstock it was not. The website listed the chefs as well as the bands and there was a separate schedule for food-related events such as the butchering of a pig. Back in the day Ozzie Osbourne used to bite the heads off of bats on stage, but this execution was performed live by a celebrity chef.
There were also meet and greets with chefs like David Chang (momofuku ssäm bar) and writers like former NY Times food critic Ruth Reichl, and a wine tasting tent with on-call sommeliers and more than one hundred varieties of wine. As for those lukewarm hot dogs, they are a thing of the past. At today’s music festivals you can pair your 2006 Tablas Creek Rosé with duck hot dogs with pickled cabbage and black garlic, a soft-shell crab sandwich, a pork-belly shawerma taco, or a foie gras doughnut. Food has become sexy.
Here in Cairo we are seeing the same phenomenon. There are great blogs like “Buttered Up” by Sarah Khanna, “Not Hungry Cuz I Ate” by Wesam Masoud, and in Arabic “Fatafeat”with Andrew Mitchell, where you can find video demonstrations, recipes, interviews with chefs, and advice on health and diet. There are regular food columns in the online newspapers, and there are daily Twitter conversations about cooking and dining out that anyone can find and join if you poke around in the Twitterverse a bit.
This is all entirely new. We now have a series of websites devoted to restaurant reviews; there are cooking schools and cooking competitions; scores of new restaurants have opened since the revolution; and the fact that a hip, young online magazine like Cairo Scene has taken an interest in this particular is just one more indication that food is now fun. And that it is being taken seriously.
And as in New York we are getting our own food events. These started with Yousry Zaghow’s Supper Club outings last year and the train is picking up speed. We now have what looks like it is going to be a regular series called Pop Up Chef’s Table by Ayman Samir, Moustafa El Refaey, and Wesam Masoud; newly opened Left Bank regularly features music, lectures, cooking demonstrations and avant garde film nights; Alia Abdelrahman (Lou’s Food Corner) has jumped in with setting up shop at Wake and Bake, which this summer featured not only her great cooking but performances by artists such as Hussein Sherbini’s Wetrobots featuring Bosaina — dubstep and steamed mussels, now that’s what I’m talkin’ about— and more recently “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?” with fine food and lots of laughs from Al Hezb El Comedy.
So it’s happening people. Cairo food is happening. Get out there and enjoy it. There is much more to come. It’s not your Daddy’s food scene anymore. Time to take a big bite out of the Big Mango. If that’s not hot, I don’t know what is.