The food and beverage industry in Egypt has gone through an incredible transformation in the past twenty years. In the mid-‘90s there were no cafes, almost no fast food, almost no delivery, little fine dining, no real supermarkets, no websites devoted to food, no restaurant reviews and no cooking shows. In the past five years, and especially since the revolution, the pace of change has increased.
More restaurants, food courts and food-oriented businesses, like cupcake outlets and gourmet shops, have opened since 2011 than in the previous twenty years combined. Add to this the overall buzz about food in magazines, newspapers, on television and especially via social media and it’s a whole new world.
We still have a long ways to go. International trends are still far beyond our horizons. The market is changing, but consumers’ tastes in Egypt are still rather conservative. New restaurants are far more likely to feature spaghetti bolognaise, escalope pané and grilled chicken sandwiches than chipotle veal chops and oxtail arancini. Yes, we eat sushi now, but we will not be seeing molecular gastronomy, Peruvian cuisine, gourmet vending machines, offal or beer pairings anytime soon.
Still, there are some trends that are growing, some that are dying, and some that I see coming just around the corner. So with all due diligence and in my own modest opinion, I give you the hottest Egypt food trends for 2013.
Leading the trend will be the continued linkage of food and social media. We will see more and more websites devoted to food, cooking and restaurant reviews, more Facebook pages, more Twitter accounts and more events that cater to those who use social media, such as food and music festivals or happenings that feature fashion, food and art. We are going to see new cooking programmes and food magazines too.
Pop-up chefs tables and supper clubs will also increase in 2013. The pool of cooking talent in this country is growing quickly. There are a lot of new, young chefs already out there and even more who are just now dreaming of going to culinary school; all becoming more enthusiastic and more daring. This talent will need an outlet, and doing new menus for select groups of friends and fans is an obvious option. More private catering companies will begin to appear for the same reasons.
Along these same lines we will begin to see restaurants without menus; places where the chef decides what he or she wants to make that day as opposed to you deciding what you want to eat. I predict the opening of a number of small restaurants with open kitchens and bar-style seating that will appeal to a growing group of well-traveled and adventurous eaters who are digging international food trends.
Along with greater awareness about international trends, health-consciousness and concern about the environment is on the rise. Soon Egypt will have more restaurants that focus on locally-sourced meat and vegetables, organic food, the farm-to-table ethos, slow food and sustainability. Perhaps not in 2013, but in the near future I hope we also begin to see healthful menus for kids.
Comfort food and street food will also continue to evolve as a market. Sushi is dying. So is our late nod to nouvelle cuisine. Fancy is out. Fun and affordable is in. There will be more small shops devoted to gourmet everything. We’ve already seen the arrival of gourmet burgers and hot dogs, next will be gourmet pizzas, gourmet roast chicken, gourmet sandwiches and gourmet shawermas. Also in the comfort-food genre I predict the opening of Cairo’s first family-style restaurants, where large dishes will be placed on the tables from which everyone helps themselves.
With the merging of lounges and bars, grazing menus will also come to the fore. We will see more mezzes, tapas, andshared appetizers, possibly also of the gourmet variety. The line between drinking and eating establishments is dissolving quickly and I hope to that we begin to see the opening of some cafes with serious attention to their menus.
2013 will witness the opening of more designer restaurants with international chefs in newly opened bed-and-breakfasts and boutique hotels. Old-fashioned hotel restaurant dining is already in decline and there will be ever more local neighbourhood restaurants, especially as the economy continues to tank and the traffic gets ever worse.
Also because of the traffic I predict the opening of places that offer delivery-only, high-end, gourmet food as well as Egypt’s first food trucks. These are markets that have not been tapped at all and as long as entrepreneurs can get around the permits issue, which I imagine they can, sometime soon you can expect gourmet food delivery menus in your mail and mobile restaurants parked outside your office.
All in all it is going to be an exciting and tasty year. Onwards and upwards.