Egypt Pulse

Egyptian doctors moonlight as chefs

Article Summary
A new restaurant created by Egyptian doctors is decorated like an emergency room and serves liver dishes cooked with surgical precision.

Ever since childhood, Mostafa Basiouny’s favorite food has been liver, or “kebda” in Arabic. When he graduated from the medical school in 2015, he decided that he would turn his favorite food into a second job.

Right after his graduation, Basiouny and his friend Mohammad Amer agreed to open “Dr. Kebda,” a theme restaurant that serves liver in a setting that resembles an intensive care unit of a hospital.

The project drew other doctors and medical students. They opened the restaurant in July in the lower Egyptian city of Damanhur. Some of the team continued to study or practice medicine during the day and work at the restaurant in their evenings, carefully dividing their time between their classes and residency shifts.

Amer, who is still a medical student at the Alexandria Faculty of Medicine, said he and Basiouny created the restaurant as a unique business idea. “We wanted to establish a working-class restaurant with a new image. We wanted our restaurant to have a different atmosphere from those that serve popular Egyptian food. We proposed the idea to a group of friends, some of whom were also medical students, and we started to secure the necessary funding by forming a simple joint stock company,” Amer told Al-Monitor.

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“Mustafa and I are the project managers. We have partners in the company, including general medicine and psychiatry students. All of us have at some point worked in restaurants and major hotels and have the experience to run the restaurant,” he said.

For the two owners and their associates, the restaurant offers a way to supplement their income. The doctors in Egypt's public hospitals have some of the lowest incomes globally. Their monthly salaries have only increased from $64 in 2001 to $70 in 2017. Meanwhile, more than 230,000 doctors are registered at the Egyptian Medical Syndicate. Only a third of them are working inside the country, while the rest have traveled abroad for better pay.

In the beginning, the plan to doctor by day and tend a restaurant by night did not please Amer’s parents. “My family, especially my mother, was totally against the idea. They feared that all those years of education would be in vain and that I would neglect my studies for my work in the restaurant. However, when they saw that I was managing both sides and that the restaurant was a success, they became more encouraging and supportive of the idea,” he said, adding that he will continue to work in medicine and hopes to open his own practice in the future, in addition to different branches of the restaurant.

Amer also admitted that the restaurant’s decor has met criticism from some of his professors, “who did not like that we are using lab coats at the restaurant.”

To create a hospital atmosphere, the doctors hung various surgical tools on the walls. Waiters and chefs wear white lab coats and gloves. Dr. Kebda serves hot meals in five different styles, the most popular the spiced kebda “a l'indienne.” Some dishes bare medicine-inspired named such as the “Emergency Kebda Plate.” Beverage sizes are called “junior” and “senior.”

While many of the restaurant’s visitors like the atmosphere and leave positive feedback on Facebook, there are those who criticize it. Some have even called upon the Egyptian Medical Syndicate to shut down the place for “distorting the image of doctors.”

Rafiq Khalil, president of the Medical Syndicate, told Al-Monitor, “There is no law that prevents practicing doctors from taking up other jobs, as long they are not doing anything illegal. However, what I disagree with is using the lab coats and the name of the medical profession in the restaurant.”

Some customers like the meticulously sanitary establishment. Mohammed Osama, a civil engineer and frequent visitor to Dr. Kebda since its opening, told Al-Monitor, “I learned about the new restaurant on Facebook and I was attracted to its name and decor. Once I tried it, I was really impressed by the restaurant’s cleanliness and the fact that the owners are doctors, which was reassuring that the food is safe. The meals are delicious. It is now one of my favorite restaurants in town.”

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Found in: Economy and trade

Rasha Mahmoud is an Egyptian journalist, scriptwriter and filmmaker. She has worked for Anadolu Agency, HuffPost and Huna Sotak.

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