There are few things that Egyptians love more than food – eating it, talking about it, expressing their love for it via social media, et al. But even with more and more restaurants opening across the city, cookery isn’t quite seen as the art that it is.
Delivery options have made many a home kitchen redundant, but Lulu’s Kitchen is looking to change all of that. As the brainchild of food enthusiast, Alia El Askalany, LK offers cooking classes in a cosy and comfy environment.
Despite branding me ‘un-teachable’, I managed to convince El Askalany to sit down for a little chinwag to find out more about Lulu’s Kitchen.
You’ve gone from being a PR player to Lulu’s Kitchen – how did that happen?
I’ve actually been coming closer to the kitchen without noticing – I’ve moved from PR to Real Estate Marketing to Marketing for Food as of late, which brought me to Lulu’s Kitchen. I have always loved the kitchen and have been practicing for years; I guess a dormant passion that was screaming to come out. And then when the time came, I hit Cordon Bleu London in Jan of 2014, coupled with other fun & inspiring classes and kitchen apprenticeships in London all for the purpose of setting me on the right foot, to pursue a career in cuisine properly.
Competition is pretty tough these days, though, right?
There will always be competition because it’s such an interesting and fun skill to have. At Lulu’s Kitchen, I always try to introduce people to techniques and tricks while cooking, rather than just cooking. I always believed that this should be a way different approach to learning and everyone thankfully is taking it in very welcomingly, and that’s how I was taught while I was in London.
You always need to have a goal, a style and plenty of love while doing it or else it will become commercial like everything else.
The idea of being comfortable while you cook is brought out by the spirit of the classes; they’re held in my own kitchen and dining platform, where everyone can chitchat, have coffee or a drink while they cook, and take their food to go or sit and eat – personal, simple & cosy.
How do you choose what you’re going to teach?
Well that’s easy and hard at the same time. I always have an idea of what I want to teach every week when I lay out the monthly schedule, as a theme for the class, but I like to keep the dishes as a surprise and send the recipes after the class, so there’s room for imagination. I use a lot of books, websites, personal conversations, even personal recipes I made up – to come up with the themes & dishes.
I can’t cook to save my life – where would you start a clumsy, reckless beginner like me?
I know a lot who suffer from the same. I would start out with a basic pasta bolognaise, that way you can learn a lot about the basics from the moment you chop your veggies, to boiling your pasta, to browning your mince. I also think steaks are a great way to learn about cooking because you learn how to deal with meat, how to marinate, make a sauce for it plus it’s so simple and fast to cook and is a no brainer when it comes to pleasing guests.
What’s the most complex dish you’ve taught so far?
I must say I have been taking it very easy on people because that’s what I want them to learn when they cook – the kitchen is not as scary as it looks, it all comes with practice and patience. There are lots of detailed (maybe complex) dishes that I intend to give over the coming few months.
I hate bamya – like, really despise it. It gives me suicidal thoughts. Are there any foods that you avoid like the plague?
I hate absolutely hate Keshk, can’t stand Feseekh either.
I hear you. Well, what do you feel like eating right now?
A mushroom pepperoni pizza with oozing warm herby tomato sauce – can’t go wrong with that.
Sounds good – I’m ordering pizza after this. Here's a really important question that I've been dying to ask you: what’s white, round and giggly?
A poached egg?
What? A poached egg? No, it’s a TICKLED onion, obviously - haha! No? Anyway, what’s on the horizon for Lulu’s Kitchen?
Good one. Well, I love infusing food/kitchen education with cooking so Lulu’s Kitchen tries to present itself at important food events and conferences, as well as niche dinner events/pop up dinners, while still keeping cooking classes as its main brand
Hopefully by next year, Lulu’s Kitchen will move to a bigger place where it can slowly turn into a proper culinary platform where everyone can learn how to cook – sort of a non-hospitality style cooking school but a proper one. Collaborations with international names are also under way, but I will keep that a surprise for now!
You see, it's funny because I said tickled onion instead of pickled onion - still nothing? Alright. Any aspirations to maybe one day open your own restaurant…?
Yeah, I get it.
You never know, these things pop up all the time but I definitely won’t head in that direction for now because it’s a hassle. Maybe turn what people cook in Lulu’s Kitchen future school/culinary platform into a new style of experimental dining, because I believe we have room to try new things and we’re much open to it now on the food scene.
Find out more on the official Lulu's Kitchen Facebook page.