The charismatic director and head professor, Swiss-born Mark Iten, lifts both his hands in the air in front of his face and gently rocks them during his interview with Ahram Online, emphatically whispering: “What makes a chef is what they can do with their hands.”
A true lover of working with food, he can inspire anyone to become a chef. Noticing the lack of chef associations when he arrived twenty years ago in Egypt, he went on to establish the Egyptian Chef’s Association.
The next step, naturally, was to establish a formal school for chefs.
During the years of economic boom and when Egypt was flowing with tourists, hotels were at capacity and chefs were in demand, there was a high lack of skills. Not only must a chef possess talent - the “working with your hands” bit - but nowadays they have to know how to use software!
During economic downturns, or simply cost-cutting, Chef Iten reveals that the training manager is one of the first to go - even in monolith hotels.
When asked if the economic downturn would mean that in Egypt there aren’t as many needs for a gourmet chef, he quickly replied: “If it’s not Egypt, it’s Singapore, Dubai – the rest of the world.”
That’s exactly one of the major draws of the programme: they prepare their students for certification by London’s meticulous City and Guilde to launch students onto a internationally-open career in the scintilating field of food.
Egypt's chef's academy has wrapped up its first semester and first trials for chef certification. The three classes of 24 students is impressive enrollment for a first-time opening, showing people’s thirst for turning their simple cooking into a refined art and opening the doors for a true gourmet career.
In fact, Eissa Said Mohamed has lead and encouraged a whole set of professional chefs in Hurghada to get the certification through the Culinary school in Cairo. Once a month they troop down to Cairo to take their classes for the certification.
The newly furbished floor of the Akhbar El-Youm building in 6th of October houses the offices and classrooms and training kitchens for Egypt's Culinary Training Centres.
Chefs-to-be learn all of the basics of the 18 cooking methods in compressed classes, suitable for scheduling needs in Egypt. Their class modules focus on everything from professionalism, plate presentation, first aid, safety, temperature range, how to make stocks and soups, meats, fruits and pastries.
The academy is accepting applications until 28 April for the next semester. Classes are given in Arabic, with the written curriculum books in English and Arabic as well as certification.
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