"They said I was very natural" replies medical researcher-turned chef, Wesam Masoud with a shrug of the shoulders, a humble look down and the corners of his mouth slightly upturning, the only hint of small, internal pleasure with the comment.
Chef Wesam sat, relaxed with Ahram Online talking about his newfound TV status, including why the CBC network said they picked him up for one of their cooking show slots on their Sofra (Dining Table) channel that launched on 25 May.
"They said I got away with stuff others couldn't: like when I said on the show that I don't understand people who don't like olives. How can they not like olives!? But then I came right back and admitted I don't like cucumbers and that no one could understand me. They were surprised that I could tease my audience, yet didn't offend them because I would turn around and put it on me."
The cook also was a post-doctoral clinical research fellow* at the ivy-league Yale University, yet decided to go for a career change to his passion.
Although he's been cooking and consulting for years now, just two years ago, he probably wouldn't have been able to do this show in Arabic, since his dominant language is English.
CBC was looking for local chefs to come up with concepts for cooking shows, and they found out about him through Ayman Samir, the owner of the Maadi favourite, but now-closed Cellar Door and one of the Chef's Table members. In fact, Wesam did a pilot in English years ago but says no one was interested. So when he did the audition for CBC, he just thought: "Fine, I'll just do it in my Arabic…" … and crossed his fingers.
Apparently, they liked. Chef Wesam's programme, Motbokh 101 (Kitchen 101) aired the first day as the channel launch. He checks his comments himself and sometimes admits sleepless nights because he ponders on them. The audience's favourite show so far has been, predictably, his meat episode.
The Motkbokh 101 audience are men and women (he purposefully avoids segmenting on gender) who love food, but don't know major techniques. For instance, he dedicated a show on how to stuff poultry.
On the upcoming episode that he liked the best, he nods his head emphatically, saying that definitely: it is the seafood episode.
"I don't really like eating seafood, but in this one, the food looked and tasted fantastic!" he said enthusiastically. "It was the only one that I posted photos of myself."
Ironically, this programme, scheduled to be aired on Wednesday 29 May, was very spontaneous. He had a "spare three hours" and decided to shoot it without anything remotely scripted "I don't know what I've said as I'm cooking until I see the show," he laughs.
Overall, actually, Wesam doesn't get to eat his food. He "relies heavily on his stimulants:" coffee and cigarettes more so than food.
He clues Ahram Online in on some of the more comical behind-the-scenes realities of shooting a food show: "The crew eats all of the food! I'm thinking of starting to make bigger quantities just to feed them all!" he said amid a laugh that filled his chest and rose to a big smile.
Chef Wessam ends the interview with: "I love every single person on the crew. I think if we have fun, that will translate to the audience."
(For more Life & Style news and updates, follow us on Twitter:@AhramLifestyle)
CBC network, Sofra
Sunday - Thursday
11am, 7pm and 2am
*Ahram Online published previously that Masoud received his PhD from Yale, but we are clarifying instead that he was a post-doctoral clinical research fellow.