Introducing Our Favorite Foodies
The food industry has, like everything else, expanded a lot during the past few years. And new job titles, interests and hobbies that are related to the food industry started surfacing in Cairo. Not only that, but they are also becoming increasingly popular. We decided to look further into those new Food Industry job titles. Between food stylists, food photographers, and food bloggers, things might get a little overwhelming. We’ve brought some of our favorite people in the food industry for a flavorful discussion.
Food… In Style
A Food Stylist’s job might seem like fun, but it takes a lot of hard work. The tricks we’ve come to know are only the least of it. And no one knows that like Food Stylist Sarah Ibrahim, “we work 12, 14, and even 24 hours for a TV commercial”, she says, “it’s a commitment, and you really need to invest in your work. I buy props and have them shipped from the US and UK. You need to invest in your work or else it won’t stand out”.
Sarah started with barely anything more than a passion for food and an advertising background, “we had food clients and had to look for stylists. At the time there was only one stylist out there”, she tells, “and when I saw what she does, I thought it was really beautiful. In a few months I had quit my job and taken a course”. The academic side to food styling has its benefits, “it teaches you some of the tricks you need to know, but most of the real work is trial and error”, she explains, “also, it’s a matter of personal taste”.
I’m not a good cook, but I love to eat food
Sarah’s family was supportive of her decision to turn to food styling. We don’t see why they shouldn’t, seeing how passionate she is about food, “I’m not a good cook, but I love to eat food”, she laughs, “I’m passionate about food; whenever I travel I always have a list of things I want to eat on this trip”, she tells. This worked in Sarah’s benefit, since the industry is booming and food stylists are becoming more appreciated. This increase is something she has taken note of, “I think the clients who work without a food stylists see the gap between their picture and those which have been styled by a food stylist”, she says, “we spray things to make them look nice, we take care of vegetables like they’re our babies, we place things with tweezers and stick them. Who else would do that?”
Not many would have the patience to do all of this work, but it does pay off when your work is literally delicious. Sarah’s favorite did not surprise us, “I like desserts”, she says, “I have a sweet tooth; that’s why”, she laughs.
We spray things to make them look nice, we take care of vegetables like they’re our babies, we place things with tweezers and stick them. Who else would do that?
Yet, somehow, not all those tricks are employed, “I’ve done recipe campaigns where I actually had to cook the food with minor tricks”, she tells, “it still looked good”. All of this hard work does make a difference in the final picture, because sometimes it feels like it would be impossible to make food look “sexy”. For this, Sarah had an explanation, “the photography aspect is very important, not just food styling”, she explains, “a photographer who invests in his equipment, and who loves food, will produce good quality. Also, the lighting plays an important part”.
Sarah fully encourages investing in one’s self. This goes for aspiring food stylists as well, “invest in food styling, look at a lot of pictures, bring the right tools, and always criticize your work”, she concludes.
Easy Recipes can be Delicious
Nora El Sadat has always loved cooking, and never understood why many girls choose not to. She decided to share her easy to make recipes with the world. Her Facebook group gave way to her Instagram account, and now over eight thousand people enjoy her recipes.
Nora makes sure to simplify her recipes for her followers, “I look at difficult recipes and replace the many, many ingredients, with less ingredients that will give the same result”, she says. This is not the only way she comes up with recipes, “I first try a recipe the way it is meant to be made”, she explains, “then I change it around and add a more Oriental taste to it, and I replace the ingredients with those which we can easily find here”.
Nora knows why women who cook are not common nowadays, “I was never required to cook before I was married, but I actually enjoyed it. Yet, my sister who doesn’t enjoy cooking still knows how to”, she says, “eventually we’ll all have to cook. So I’m trying to help as much as I can”. This help goes both ways, as the feedback she receives is encouraging, “what pushes me the most is when someone sends me a picture of a meal they cooked using my recipe”, she tells, “and they tell me that it was delicious and easy and that their husband, boyfriend, or parents were proud of them”.
I look at difficult recipes and replace the many, many ingredients, with less ingredients that will give the same result
The Internet gave Nora the platform she needed, but she knows exactly what she would have done if that wasn’t available, “I would’ve written a book. I’m writing one now, but I would have done that a lot sooner”, she explains. This is not the first time the Internet’s platform was used in that sense here in Egypt, before food bloggers, fashion bloggers were on the receiving end of a lot of attention. It is clear now that this attention is shifting towards food bloggers, “I don’t know if it’s a trend. I think all people eat and want to read restaurant reviews and know what are the best places to eat at”, she says.
Although she advocates its easiness, Nora knows that cooking is a talent, “it’s definitely a ‘nafas’, as we call it”, she says, “I could try to replicate a meal that my mother-in-law made, but even if I follow the recipe she gave me it won’t be the same”. Nora believes that this could also be one of the reasons why we, Egyptians, are becoming more open to try new cuisines, “whenever we go to family gatherings it’s the same menu of mahshy, molokheya, and okra. I need to make something different”, she says, “and either way, it’s impossible for me to make those meals as well as my grandmother or mother-in-law”.
it’s definitely a ‘nafas’, as we call it
Nora is a full time mother, but her food blogging never conflicted with that. This, she attributes to time management. And she does receive moral support from her family due to their love of food. They do not, however, think it’s a career. To an extent, Nora agrees, “I don’t want to feel like I’m obligated to do it. I do this out of passion”, she tells. However, she does admit that it is possible for her to take it as a career one day, “you never know, especially now that cooking is a trend”, she tells, “not only that, but cooking healthy food. That’s why I’m developing healthy recipes with someone who has studied nutrition”. Nora is also working on short YouTube videos, of which she has released teasers.
Food Photography – Delicious Still Life
Hatem Saleh is not only known for his fashion and beauty photography, but also his mouth-watering food photography. Hatem started out doing still life mainly, which worked since he is from an advertizing background. He then did fashion and beauty photography, “I didn’t think I would like it, but I loved it”, he says, “but then I returned to food and products again. I’m trying different things”. To Hatem, both have their pros and cons, “fashion and beauty are more fun, but food is easier”, he explains, “I love both because they both bring something to life”.
Working with appetizing food all the time can’t be easy especially if dieting is even remotely considered, “I got used to it. It’s just still photography, but when I see the pictures after retouching and editing, it does make me hungry”, he says.
There are plenty of elements that constitute the perfect photo shoot. However, the main star remains the “model”, “I’m not a dessert person, but those are the best looking shots, or steak, because I’m a steak person”, he tells.
Hatem’s situation is different from those of food bloggers and stylists in the sense that people already knew and accepted food photography, “when I started there were already people established in the market like Sherif Tamim and Hoda El Sherif”, he says.
always push yourself to try different things, push your limit and never think you’re good
Having been in the business for a while now, Hatem knows what up and coming photographers should focus on, “always push yourself to try different things, push your limit and never think you’re good”, he tells, “always think that you can get better”. Courses could always help, but Hatem thinks there’s more to food photography than that, “beauty and fashion are definitely different from food photography, but you can learn those things by experience”, he explains, “those specialization courses won’t make as big of a difference as experience will”.
Coming from an advertising background, Hatem sure knows what it’s like to deal with clients, “my only problem with marketing teams is that they’re always scared of doing something outside of the box”, he says, “if I suggest we would take a shot of a half-eaten dish, they would think I’ve gone mad”. There are also technicalities that sometimes cause misunderstandings between clients and photographers, like the real capabilities of Photoshop, “they think it’s a magic wand. When in fact, there are thing that are impossible to do with it”, he tells, “however, Photoshop does make a lot of things easier.”
If I suggest we would take a shot of a half-eaten dish, they would think I’ve gone mad
Due to the work he has done for the past years, Hatem now has a clear understanding of what the most important pillars of food photography are, “everything is important, but I’ve always said that styling and lighting are the most important”, he says, “they go together, if the food isn’t styled well, no matter what I do with the lighting, it won’t look nice”.
Egyptian Instagram’s Guide for Dining Out
Aya and Alaa El Garhy’s Instagram account has been the go-to account when looking for a nice new restaurant. Their love for food shows in every one of their posts. They are food bloggers who are outgoing and fun. Whatever new food experience they try, they bring to our homepage.
It all started out when Aya found out that she has become her friends’ restaurant guru, “I go out a lot, and my friends would ask me for restaurant suggestions”, she tells, “so I made a list of fixed paragraphs for each restaurant. This is when they suggested I should start my own food blog”. It takes will power to do something that many won’t understand, “whether they get it or not depends on whether or not they follow the right people”, she tells, “at my day job, they wouldn’t know what a food blogger does”.
Aya knows how to cook, and does a lot of cooking. Having her own cooking experience comes in handy, “a food blogger needs to know what the food is made of, how it’s supposed to be made, how it’s supposed to look like”, she says, “they need to know all those cooking basics”. Cooking, blogging and having a day job seem like a lot of work, “it’s easy. I leave work at around 5 and a post only takes 5-10 minute to write, so I manage”, she tells. This is all until Aya figures out a way to take this as a profession, “I would like to take it as a career; it’s my passion”, she says.
Food culture in Egypt is expanding and becoming more diverse. Aya noticed this, and is happy about it, “it’s because there are all those new restaurants opening up. We have Chinese, Korean, Thai and Indian”, she says, “back in the day we didn’t have any of that. Now every week there’s a new restaurant”.
At my day job, they wouldn’t know what a food blogger does
Aya’s day job might come as a surprise seeing as how different it is from food blogging, “I’m a pharmacist and it’s a very mundane job”, she says. This could be one of the reasons why her family was very supportive when she wanted to also become a food blogger, “they know I love food so they told me that as long as I’m doing something that I love, they’re okay with it”, she tells.
From Aya’s perspective, food bloggers need to be diverse, “they have to go around, eat in all the restaurants, and order plenty of dishes to test them”, she explains, “and when they travel, they need to eat as much as they could so they would know what they’re measuring up to”. She also believes that their acceptance of different cuisines is essential, “they need to know about a lot of food so they can tell the people about them”, she tells, “I love Asian, but what if someone doesn’t and loves Italian instead? I need to try both and tell them about both”.
Now every week there’s a new restaurant
It is fascinating to see how a centuries old industry can still change, be changed, and develop. One might argue that food photographers, stylists and bloggers have always been around; it is just the Internet that has brought them to our attention. That may be true, but their work and passion remain fascinating nevertheless. If anything, this is the first generation of Egyptian food bloggers, stylists and photographers. They have earned our support with their hard work and love for everything delicious.
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Photography by: Remon El Markiz
Styling and art direction by: What Women Want… Magazine Team
Hair by: Kriss Beauty Salon
Makeup by: Mai Ayman