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How Chef Moustafa Elakel Of Pita Jungle Is Helping To Promote Healthy Eating

An Interview With Martita Mestey

Stay calm — I remember I worked with a chefs that rarely will through pan at you during service. Getting flustered during service will only affect the quality of the food and your team.

In this interview series, called “Chefs and Restaurateurs Helping To Promote Healthy Eating” we are talking to chefs and restaurateurs who are helping to promote and raise awareness about healthy eating. The purpose of the series is to amplify their message and share insights about healthy eating with our readers. As a part of this series, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Chef Moustafa Elakel

We tell the stories of who we are through food. It brings us together in so many ways and I believe one must always cook and serve with soul, creativity, and love.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know’ you a bit. Can you share with our readers a story about what inspired you to become a restauranteur or chef?

It has been a blessing that I have been able to pursue a career that creates a product that brings people together. I was born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt, I grew up influenced by a long line of home cooks, including my mother and grandmother. I have especially fond memories of cooking alongside a family in my childhood. Egyptian cooking holds a dear place in my heart. I Landed in the USA in 1998 with nothing more than a small suitcase and a love of food, I found my very first job as a kitchen prep in Ohio at ‘Yours Truly’ restaurant. Four years later I Intent on developing my skill and evolving into a strong chef and leader I graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Miami, and I was fortunate enough to start working at the luxury hotel working with grates chefs and learned classical French techniques, thus forming the beginnings of my own style of cooking, marrying the French technique with the Egyptian philosophy of using natural, seasonal flavors.

Do you have a specific type of food that you focus on? What was it that first drew you to cooking that type of food? Can you share a story about that with us?

I get asked this question a lot I don’t have a specific type of food that I focus on, I love to explore new dishes and new ideas to create an unforgettable dish, Call me crazy, but you had no idea how delicious Egyptian food would actually be. Egyptian food spreads its culinary influence throughout Europe and beyond. With an ancient tradition, Egyptian cuisine has been greatly influenced by both Middle East and North Africa, while also featuring elements of Greek and even French cuisine.. Flavors of food change with season and geography. However, fresh vegetables, fishes & seafood play a significant role in the dishes mostly because of its long coastline while the meat is treated as less popular, with the exception of lamb.

Baklava is quintessential to the Egyptian food experience. This dish mostly contains nuts and butter. After baking, sweet syrup is poured over it so that the syrup can be absorbed by the crispy layers of phyllo. It is probably the most popular dessert item among all Egyptian desserts. It brings a festive mood to the dining room through its exquisite flavor and flaky crust.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that has happened to you since you started? What was the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

We did an event as a food Competition in Dc as a taste of DC My submission was a Lamb burger with feta cheese everyone was saying it will not work but I went for it anyway trusting my instincts and surprisingly it was one of the hits and everyone were coming back for more and they visit our restaurant just for that dish.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

My wife and children who were the backbone of my career Every step of the way have been supportive and encouraging by embracing the changes I had to make over time. When I launched my catering and bakery company my daughter & son were very supportive throughout all the processes.

In your experience, what is the key to creating a dish that people are crazy about?

Figuring out how to optimally nourish your body for an active, happy, and healthy life is surprisingly challenging. we live in a culture that both celebrates food and fears it, we know we should eat healthy but healthy food has a reputation for being bland and boring you must be Cooking with high-quality seasonal produce, and using natural seasonal flavors, by enhanced and implementing methods and techniques. Surprisingly I have lost 45 lb by changing the way I was eating “We used high-quality cookware and high-quality ingredients when we tested the recipes, and I recommend you to do the same because lower-grade pots and pans can burn the food or cook it unevenly and using low-quality food will affect the flavor of the dish.

Personally, what is the ‘perfect meal’ for you?

My perfect meal is Caesar salad with baby romaine radicchio, avocado, roasted tomato, Cajun salmon, and poached egg I can eat this dish every day.

Where does your inspiration for creating come from? Is there something that you turn to for a daily creativity boost?

Creativity is primarily learned and therefore comes from many different sources I use cookbooks all the time and I always trying to find new ideas and I also travel quite a bit, which brings me so much inspiration seeing new dishes and ideas and with motivation, expertise you can create a perfect dish.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? What impact do you think this will have?

We are actually launching our line of Baklava with a new flavor, not the traditional Baklava that you may know all our ingredients are organic and high quality, and it will change the way how you think of Baklava.

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. You are currently leading an initiative to help promote healthy eating. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

We want to show that healthy food can taste great forgetting its reputation for being bland and boring the goal is to create a dish that includes the right amount of balanced protein, fat, carb, and calories. By eating healthy will protect you against many chronic non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Eating a variety of healthy foods and consuming less salt, sugars, and saturated and industrially-produced trans-fats, are essential for a healthy lifestyle

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

When I first started my cooking career all my passion was how to create delicious dishes regardless how much fat or sugar or ingredients used, thinking back to how my parent passed from heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and working with athletics make me change my way of cooking by cooking and eating healthier by doing that it can Help you Prevent of many diseases and become healthier and stronger.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Having access to healthy foods is essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. For decades, millions of Americans especially those living in low-income communities — have suffered as grocery stores with fresh, affordable food have disappeared from their neighborhoods. Without access to healthy foods, a nutritious diet and good health are unattainable. And without grocery stores and other fresh-food retailers, communities are missing the commercial centers that help local economies thrive.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started as a Chef or Restaurateur” and why? Please share a story or an example for each.

Stay calm — I remember I worked with a chefs that rarely will through pan at you during service. Getting flustered during service will only affect the quality of the food and your team.

Be Efficient — you need to back up from your to-do list and first determine your priorities and goals. Where are there unnecessary tasks that you can streamline or get rid of altogether? Think about your day-to-day tasks and work collectively with your team

Get organized — organization in the kitchen crucial to any success — be it serving a 5-course meal, or cooking up chicken wings, we use system that called mise-en-place, or, literally, “put in place.” It’s a French phrase that means to gather and arrange the ingredients and tools needed for cooking, that is nothing worst than an unorganized kitchen.

Patient — you may create the perfect recipes and you give them to your team to execute it but it doesn’t turn out as you were hoping for you need to learn to be very patient

Hiring The Right Team — Skills can always be taught — and even the most seasoned professionals are learning new things every day. Tougher to instill in your team is character. Hiring people who show up every day on time with an enthusiasm to grow will be an asset to your business no matter what their skill-set is.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I will have to say chef Wolfgang puck is one of my inspirations to continue my career.

A chef is a mixture maybe of artistry and craft. You have to learn the craft really to get there.​

by ​Wolfgang puck

How can our readers further follow your work online?

We encourage everyone to follow us on social media for new dishes and more at:

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

How Chef Moustafa Elakel Of Pita Jungle Is Helping To Promote Healthy Eating was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.