In a time when good food has become hard to find, despite the plethora of new restaurants, cooking for oneself provides a tasty alternative. One immediate benefit is the level of control over the content, along with the assurance that it is clean and fresh. To guide their way, many turn to the internet and various cook books for recipes, or Fatafeat, which until recently was the only food channel targeting Middle Eastern audiences. Now, however, the station is facing fierce competition over Egyptian audiences from a new channel called CBC Sofra (dining table).
We contacted head of CBC Sofra, Samir Youssef, for more information. “None of the food channels focus on the Egyptian market, but there are a million Egyptian cooking shows out there. We want to create a bucket of recipes for Egypt,” Youssef explained, saying that they have plans to transform CBC Sofra into a complete product with its own brand and website, among other services.
We asked about the elephant in the room, Fatafeat, and how CBC Sofra compares to it. Youssef explained that while Fatafeat is aimed mostly at Gulf audiences, CBC Sofra has set its sights on a uniquely Egyptian audience. “CBC Sofra is offering a comprehensive glossary of food and everything related to the art and culture of making food in the Egyptian market,” Youssef explained.
“Everything Egyptian” is the main hook for CBC Sofra, but Youssef explains that they cover everything that merges with the Egyptian taste as well. “No one really eats strictly Egyptian food. We have gotten used to different kind of foods from different cultures. Throughout history, a blend of flavours passed through Egypt and this added to the original flavours of Egyptian cooking.” he said. CBC Sofra’s presenters are either Egyptian or foreigners residing in Egypt who know the culture. “The presenters have to be connected to the Egyptian society,” he said.
The channel already broadcasts eight shows during the week and another ten over the weekend. One of the shows features famous Egyptian Chef Sherbini, which runs all week. There is a show for teaching cooking basics, called Matbakh 101, and another one that exhibits budget recipes called A’la Ad Al E’id, which aims to provide audiences a substitute for restaurant food.
One of the shows, A’eish we Malh by Maggie Habib, is combination of a cooking show and an attempt at documenting Egyptian food. “The daily one-hour show explores the history and know-how of an ingredient, and how it is tied to the Egyptian society, and then it offers variations on the known recipes,” Youssef said.
Bel Hana, a show presented by ex-model Amany Refaat aims at exploring different cuisines inside Egypt. “She will try to make recipes from each governorate,” Youssef explained. “She will present different recipes which people are not aware of, and also present fusion food, like kofta from Upper Egypt that has some Italian flavouring.” There is also a seafood show called Shabaka we Sanara, which is presented by a seasoned diver. He cooks all the food outside, as a change from the traditional studio scene.
The channel runs 24 hours covering different type of foods, with various levels of difficulty to suit all kinds of audiences. Youssef also hopes that the channel would open audiences to new ingredients and new kinds of food.