“We get along fabulously,” says Wesam Masoud, one of the three top chefs that will serve a seven-course meal at their Chef’s Table event on 26 September. Here, the three chefs don't compete, but rather bring together their talents to come up with a creative, delectable meal.
“We really have fun; we make dishes that we want to cook, we have fun cooking and eating, regardless if our customers understood it.”
Moustafa El Refaey of Zooba, Ayman Samir of the Cellar Door and Wesam Masoud of Eatcorp (Top Dawgs, Ali Baba, Mr Wok and Andrew's Deli) and restaurant consultant find themselves poring over excel cost sheets, talking with suppliers and coming up with game plans as executive chefs, rather than doing more of what they love: cooking.
What’s the fix to their suppressed creativity? Pour their energy into the monthly Chef’s Table.
Gastronomy is being revolutionised as chef competitions and programmes spoltlight the art and raise the bar, young talented chefs are finding workarounds to the slow pace of paying your dues and moving up in kitchens, new spaces are opening up because chefs can use innovations and take advantage of the public’s openness to try new things. As a result, people are becoming more aware of what good food actually is and can now demand better.
Ahram Online: Was the idea of a Chef’s Table modeled after anything else?
Wesam Masoud:I’d been thinking of doing a pop-up for a number of years. I read an article where chefs used informal settings or unutilised spaces. Ayman, the chef at the Cellar Door [previously known as Le Petit Swiss Chalet in Maadi] helped me work through my menu. I’m working with Moustafa Ozuba and Ayman Samir, who are more established.
AO: What’s the most important in the Chef’s Table?
WM: One: technique, meaning to extract as much flavour as possible. For example, beef cheek must be braised for a number of days because of the connective tissue. We want to package flavour in a novel way to the Cairene palate. We three [chefs] have an open forum. We never stop: we have a deluge of ideas, which must lead into flavour. Number two: flavour, which, of course, is a result of the technique. Three. Presentation.
AO: Who attended the first Chef’s Table and what was their feedback?
WM: The first one was in July. About 40 per cent of the guests signed up from my Twitter followers on nothungrycuzi8, and some of them were our friends.
We had mostly strong reactions. The people in the first set would love a particular dish and the next group hated that same dish. But there was always something people really liked or really didn’t like [out of the seven-course meal].
AO: What do you aim to do with the Chef’s Table, other than have an outlet for your creativity?
WM: That’s the aim: for the food to be memorable. As a consultant, sometimes owners just want to prepare dishes exactly the way other restaurants are, but I don’t see the point in doing a ‘previous hits restaurant.’
It would be nice to bring in other chefs. None of us are pastry chefs. Whenever we talk about setting the dessert for the menu, they all look at me!
AO: So, without spoiling the surprise, can you tell Ahram Online what you’ve been considering for September’s Chef’s Table?
WM: [says pensively] Most likely we’ll be doing something with braised beef cheeks. Maybe some game. We probably won’t be serving fish. Without doubt, we’ll do a soup course: dual of soups with a cold press terrine. For dessert: definitely something with cherries. Tuile beef bacon biscuit - I make it crazy thin and crispy.
AO: What do you expect in general at the next Chef’s Table?
WM: We want to print a menu card this time.
We also expect to see about a 50 per cent retention and we hope that new people come in and drag their friends [laughing]
Guests can choose to eat either at 7:30pm or 10:30pm
Guests are seated at a communal table in the Cellar Door restaurant, Maadi
First showing: guests must arrive at 7:15 and start eating at 7:30pm
Second showing: guests arrive at 10:15 and start eating at 10:30pm
At every 15 minute interval they serve the next course
Contact Chef's Table through their Facebook page to make your reservation
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