January 4, 2021
– By: May Allam
Sara discovered her passion and talent for cooking and baking from an early age. After moving to London 14 years ago, it saddened her to find that Egyptian cuisine has no to limited presence in London compared to other Middle Eastern restaurants.
After giving birth to her two children, she decided to work as a caterer and cake maker. She started her catering business Mazaq “Flavor” six years ago. Keen to introduce Egyptian food and culture to the world, she also launched Cultural Whisk, a cultural and historical YouTube channel, along with her Italian friend and pastry chef Stefano. On Cultural Whisk, Sara cooks a dish from Egypt and Stefano cooks a similar dish from Italy and vise versa. The discuss the similarities between these two dishes and showing a little bit of the history behind it and how it ended up the way we know it today. She hopes her channel will be a positive exposure to Egyptian culture and an attraction for foreign visitors to her homeland.
WoE: How did the idea of Culture Whisk start? What does it represent to you and your Italian partner?
SA: I had the idea for a couple of years, finding no Egyptian food on London’s streets was always upsetting, only Levant, Moroccan and even Gulf cuisines are everywhere…. I thought I needed to act upon that and do something to show the world how beautiful Egyptian food and culture are. I thought of a collaboration between me and my very dear friend Stefano, as talented as he is, I thought it was a great idea mixing these two amazing cultures together and talk about our own food history in an interesting and light way, grabbing people’s attention by the beautiful commonalities between these two cuisines.
WoE: How are traditional Egyptian foods accepted in the UK? Do you find a lot of demand for it?
SA: It’s not about being accepted or not actually, it’s about not being present at all, for some reason, there’s no Egyptian who is willing to take the step and open a decent well presented Egyptian restaurant, it’s either a poor-quality restaurant, not up to UK standards, or the food is really not that good, I mean, nothing is showing the real taste of Egyptian food in a modern contemporary way to be suitable to different tastes. The demand for Egyptian food is just from Egyptians because it’s simply not known.
WOE: There is a variety of Egyptian foods and also other cultures cook some Egyptian foods. Would you consider cooking food from other Arab countries as well?
SA: I do cook food from all around the world, Middle Eastern, Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, you name it. I am very passionate about cooking in general and curious about different cultures, but if you mean cooking food from different Arab countries on the channel? Then the answer is yes, definitely, but not at this point, my goal is to showcase my very own cuisine on the first season then on the next seasons we have lots of plans, cooking from different cultures and travelling the world through cooking.
WOE: Have you learned to cook Italian food from Chef Stefano? Would you consider swapping for a change (him cooking Egyptian and you cooking Italian food)?
SA: I already know how to cook Italian, but the thing is, do we know how we cook real Italian food? Authentic Italian? Because apparently most of the Italian food we know or we think we know in Egypt has nothing to do with the real thing, it’s mostly an American version of Italian food, and that’s mostly what I have learned from Stefano, how to cook real authentic Italian food. Yes, we already thought about it, and as a beginning, we started to cook some parts together on the channel, preparing people for the idea of swapping, which will happen very soon insha’allah.
WoE: Have there been more orders from Mazaq, now that the UK is in a lockdown due to the global pandemic?
SA: It’s been a bit slow to be honest, but as I’m extremely busy with the channel, I’m not willing to take any orders unless it’s for a close friend, who I never say no to.
WoE: How is the pandemic affecting your line of work?
SA: It’s actually affecting my work in a very good way, having plenty of time to think, plan and do what I’ve always dreamt of doing, I never had the time before the pandemic to follow my dreams, always been super busy with Mazaq’s work and as a full-time mum of two kids with their studies and activities, cooking and all the housewife responsibilities. Now life is slower and I have a lot more time than before with the lockdown.
WoE: Would you consider opening a restaurant to serve your customers, along with Chef Stefano?
SA: We do, and we always had some plans together, either a restaurant or a café or a pastry shop, but we need to grow our channel first then later on we can proceed with the other plans as opening a restaurant requires lots of money, time and dedication, plus in this pandemic, the hospitality industry is badly affected especially in European countries, so lots of restaurants had already closed down and lots of others can barely survive, so it’s definitely not a good move at the moment.
WoE: Are your children also interested in cooking? If they show interest in it, would you allow them to pursue culinary studies or cooking as a career?
SA: My kids are crazy about cooking, both of them. My daughter who’s the older one is now cooking dinners for us two days a week, my son is always trying to interfere which gives me a headache, hahah, but I have to deal with that, they both help me a lot with cutting and stirring, making cakes and desserts. My daughter is already making her very own honey biscuits.
WoE: What do you think can be done to further improve the quality of food served in Egyptian restaurants?
SA: I think presentation is the weakest part of Egyptian food, the way we present our food is not appealing at all, we need to work on our presentation skills. We also need to archive the authentic Egyptian old recipes in cookbooks, we don’t have much, and that’s something on my to do list.
WoE: Would you offer cooking classes to women to empower them to follow cooking as a career? Would you consider offer training classes in Egypt during your holiday?
SA: I already was offering cooking classes here in London to older kids and willing to give more courses in the very near future, something I’m working on now. Yes of course, It will be my pleasure to offer cooking courses on my next holiday this year insha’allh, when I plan my vacation to Egypt, I will announce for the course hopefully.
WoE: What are your dreams for the future? On a personal and professional level?
SA: My dream is to be seen and heard all around the world, to see people asking for Egyptian food, to see exquisite Egyptian food chains in London and all over the world, the Egyptian cuisine being as famous as the Italian, French and Chinese cuisines. I want to be the representative of the Egyptian culture and cuisine, grabbing tourists’ attention to our beloved country with its great history and civilization.