09/09/05 — Egyptian chefs learn how to cook turkey

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Egyptian chefs learn how to cook turkey

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on September 9, 2005 1:49 PM

FAISON -- Five Egyptian chefs investigated turkey production Thursday and checked out Joani Babcock's turkey thigh rigatoni at Southern Exposure.

The executive chefs from several hotels throughout Egypt are on a two-week tour of the United States' culinary culture. Their first stop Thursday was the Carolina Turkey plant near Mount Olive.

Executive Chef Bedawy Abdel Hamid of Cairo said the tour is one of the most important trips in his whole career.

"Usually you go to a factory and come back, but this time, you see the local people. When you go to every city, you eat in the local restaurants. For us, American food is not all the same like Middle Eastern. You have California, to San Francisco to Washington, D.C., and the South."

Each region reflects its own local flavor, Hamid said. And the next time an American comes to one of his restaurants, he says he is going to ask, "Where are you coming from? And I can cook exactly for his region."

Hamid is in charge of 16 restaurants at a large Marriott hotel in Cairo. Altogether he is in charge of restaurants in seven Marriotts in Egypt, including two in Cairo.

He has a couple of American restaurants, J.W. Steak House and American Country Kitchen.

"Now, I can make menus much better," he said.

He said he was uneasy about getting off the airplane when he arrived in the U.S. He said he didn't know what to expect, but warmed to the people quickly.

"People are very nice here, very friendly. They speak from the heart," he said. "This I will take back."

Hilton Executive Chef Korayem El Gazar agreed.

"Everywhere we go, the people are very helpful for us," he said.

El Gazar said he tried some new cuts of beef he is going to use when he gets back home to the four hotels in the Red Sea area of Egypt. Each hotel has its own mix of guests and eateries focus on a variety of tastes, Russian, Italian, European. There is also a Tex-Mex restaurant that uses American meat on a limited basis.

"But now, we'll be getting more," he said.

He has regular guests who come every year. The Russian guests like to drink, and they eat a lot of fish, he said. The Italian guests must have pasta every day. The Europeans ask more about quality.

"I'm willing to pay more for quality cuts now," he said. He expects his customers to love it when he brings the new ideas to Egypt, and he doesn't think they will mind paying more either.

He said after touring the nearby Carolina Turkey operation, he has more confidence in the American product. He said he was very impressed with the exacting attention to detail and the strict hygiene practices at the plant.

Greg Tyler with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Export Council said the trip is being sponsored by the USDA to increase export trade in agriculture products. He said the Export Council has selected products they thought the chefs would be interested in.

The poultry industry of the South got two days out of the two weeks. Tyler said the chefs have looked at beef, frozen berries, small artisan cheese factories and wild rice and other colored rice like black japonica and the other California aromatics.

"Here in the South today, we're looking at turkeys," he said. "Tomorrow, we'll look at chickens in Salisbury, Md., headquarters for Perdue."

Tyler said the chefs are finding ways to incorporate more regional American cuisine in their menus, pointing to the rolled-up scrolls bound by yellow ribbons, which, when unrolled, revealed the recipe for Mrs. Babcock's rigatoni.