From a young age, Shahd El Abd knew that cooking was the path for her! When she turned 17, she moved to Switzerland where she attended a hospitality school specialized in Culinary Arts and Hotel Management.
She completed her BBA in Entrepreneurship, after which she moved to Paris and worked in the culinary arts department at the Four Seasons George V. She worked all around the kitchen as a Garde Manger chef and a butcher, as well as in the Hot Kitchen and Pastry sections.
We met with Shahd to hear all about her amazing career and delve with her into the tasteful world of cooking…
What inspired you to start a career in cooking?
I’ve had a passion for food ever since I was 13 years old. It started developing while travelling abroad and trying out different cuisines of many countries; it’s really interesting to see other cultures’ food habits and traditions. By time, I developed a passion for food and set a goal to open my own restaurant one day and to manage my own kitchen. I spent years working hard to achieve my goal.
What is your favourite cuisine? How many different types of cuisines can you cook?
Despite the fact that their portions are tiny, my favourite cuisine is French. I love how sophisticated French cuisine is; they treat cooking as a form of art. They are also very good at marrying ingredients together to create a surprisingly pleasant taste that always keeps you excited while you enjoy your meal. There are a few other cuisines that I love cooking such as Indian, Thai, Italian, Mexican and Mediterranean.
What’s the one ingredient you can’t live without?
Garlic, not only does it give an incredible flavour to the food, but as the doctors say it’s a magical ingredient that is filled with antioxidants and can cure a lot of diseases.
Tell us more about your cooking show, when and where can people watch it?
I release four episodes every month that you can enjoy watching anytime on my YouTube channel, Facebook or Instagram accounts under the name ‘Mrs. Cookie Cooks’. You can always see what I’m up to in my kitchen daily by following my page on Instagram. The idea of my show is to share with people my favourite dishes that aren’t very complicated or time consuming and can be cooked in a basic kitchen; my recipes are very quick and simple. I also share in each and every episode essential cooking techniques and general cooking advice such as how to avoid cross contamination in your kitchen.
Who is your target audience?
My target audience is beginners in the kitchen with a passion for food and who want to learn how to create a good meal from the ingredients they have in their kitchen. I would love to share what I have learnt with anyone who is interested in experimenting in the kitchen.
What do you do to stay current on new trends?
I continue to travel every once in a while to explore the new culinary trends the world has to offer. I also enjoy attending professional cooking competitions that are held annually in United Arab Emirates and France.
Is there a chef you admire the most? Who and why?
Chef Paul Bocuse, he’s a French chef who won the title “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” in 1961. Sadly he left us in January 2018, but his passion left its mark on the industry. He was the first chef to win 3 Michelin stars in a row. In my opinion, the French cuisine has greatly evolved during his time as he was one of the first chefs to introduce several famous dishes from the French cuisine that we all know and love today.
Tell us more about your restaurant S. Lounge…
I opened my first restaurant project S. Lounge in June 2014. We are pet friendly and have all the facilities and services that would make our guests feel like they are chilling in their own living room but in an outdoor space. The place is a casual dining restaurant with a menu that offers Mediterranean dishes as well as exotic smoothies and milk shakes. It’s located on Maadi’s Road 9.
What does your restaurant do to keep your menu new and exciting?
We usually change our menu every 6 months. We conduct a sales analysis to determine which items are highly in demand and which are slow, and we update our menu accordingly. We recently changed our restaurant design and furniture style completely to make the whole dining experience cozier than it already was.
What advice would like to give people while they are cooking during Ramadan?
My first advice and request is for people to be a bit more conservative with the amounts of food they cook and prepare to minimize food wastage. Studies show that food waste during the holy month of Ramadan is incredibly high; over 25% of prepared food ends up in the garbage bin which is a true shame.
My second advice is to try to keep your meal plan as creative as possible, introducing new dishes to make food more interesting as sometimes eating the same dishes and cuisine everyday can get boring. Let’s try to spice up our Iftars and Sohours this year a bit!