Starting off regularly going on grocery shopping trips at 10 years old, to the grocery shopping trip that led to her first job as a chef at Gourmet, Chef May Yacoubi has managed to take the cooking world by storm. Now she’s taking the kitchenware and homeware world by storm with the launch of her own shop www.chefmay.com.
May Yacoubi studied media at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the American University in Cairo. She kicked off her career as a chef at Gourmet Egypt.
From there, she went on to have her own show of 3 seasons named May’s Kitchen and her cooking platform with Al Marai’s Sufret Al Marai. A big milestone for her was signing on to the food network! Currently, her show airs every day from Sunday to Thursday on Al Qahera wa el nas.
Chef May’s unique taste when it comes to fine local artistry introduced us to all the nooks and crannies of authentic design in Egypt. From her signature salt and pepper shakers to her timeless kitchen mortars, Chef May really knows how to bring authenticity to the kitchen. We sat down with her to know all about her new website and unique products!
Walk us through your cooking journey
My passion for cooking came naturally. My dad used to take me grocery shopping when I was 10. I would buy the groceries for the household.
“Every decision taken about what you’re going to buy is translated into what you’re going to eat.”
I started experimenting and I really wanted to do something with cooking but I didn’t know where to start.
After graduating high school, I found an opportunity to study hotel management in Lausanne, Switzerland. But, my family wasn’t on board with the idea because they didn’t know what I would do with a hotel management degree.
So, I decided to study Media, my second passion. Throughout that time, cooking was always an important part of my life and it was when I was living in my own apartment in Cairo that I started seriously exploring it. I would cook my heart out for my family and friends. I spent half my allowance on grocery shopping. And, that’s what led me to Gourmet!
Being an avid shopper, I would ask them every day where they got their products, and “why don’t you have this?” “Why don’t you have that?”. That actually got me an interview at Gourmet and that’s when it all started for me.
Through my job at Gourmet, I kept evolving until I reached where I’m at now.
“So, I just kept reading, trying, failing, buying the right tools, keeping it simple, rustic, homey, and true to my style and that’s what reached people.”
You’ve established yourself as a renowned chef. Why did you decide it was time for your own website/online shop?
I’ve lived between Cairo and Dubai. Dubai is a cosmopolitan city where you can find props from all around the world; whether Indian, Italian, African, you name it!
I had such genuine love for these products so I would always invest in them. So, when I started my journey on Instagram, people always wanted to know where I got my tools from.
At some point, I got frustrated because I couldn’t find what I wanted under one roof. It’s like a treasure hunt in Egypt, everything is there but it’s scattered everywhere.
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I thought that maybe it’s time to finally make the website dream come true. There’s demand for artisan work; the handcrafts, the marble, the pottery.
“We have fine artists in Egypt who do such amazing things that I believe are worthy of the international market.”
What do you sell on chefmay.com? And what makes it special?
We sell everything you might need for your home, your kitchen, and your garden.
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For now, we have tableware and cookware. We also have tools for the kitchen like mortars, salt and pepper shakers, and cast-iron griddles. We have bakeware, pottery, linens, bed linens. In addition to that, we have decorative items.
It’s special because I re-introduced being in the kitchen to the Egyptian and Arab audience as a fun and enjoyable process.
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“chefmay.com is like my wishlist, it’s what I would buy, like a registry.”
So, I choose what I would choose in real life, what I would really use. You wouldn’t find anything there that I wouldn’t personally use.
What does the section titled ‘By May’ on the website include?
By May Yacoubi is the original brand designed by me and executed locally. Half of the items on the chefmay.com shop are originally designed by me. I did so many trials and prototypes to reach the final products.
“We have the timeless marble mortar that takes me to my grandmother’s house. We also have the salt and pepper shakers that I consider my signature design.”
By May Yacoubi also includes collaborations with different brands and vendors. We have the Drowzy section where I designed and they executed it. We also have Gallery Awan. They have their own pottery line, and we’re having two coming up that we collaborated on.
You’ve accomplished a lot in your life. What keeps you going?
What kept me going from day one till now is passion, I am a very passionate person.
“When I leave my kids, my home, and my comfort zone and go out for work, I make it count. I don’t just do another program, I don’t just design another product, I don’t do mediocre success.”
So, what keeps me going is that I’m driven, I’m passionate, and I have to keep my feet on the ground. Getting your feet on the ground and working will get you somewhere even if not soon.
What’s next for you?
We’re going to expand a lot of categories on chefmay.com and we are going to go into maybe fashion, furniture, food products. This is definitely in our plan. On the other hand, there’s a surprise coming very soon in the food and beverage business. It’s also another dream come true. Lastly, I plan to continue doing tv with a lot of passion, drive, and love.
Click here to check out Chef May Yacoubi’s chefmay.com and feast your eyes on her gorgeous designs!