Baltazar is raw, butch, and hedonistic, but most of all, it is authentic. Meet Khalid Osman and Yousra Darwish, two of the people who made the whole thing happen.
Egypt’s food and beverage industry is steadily growing, which may come as a surprise considering that the country is witnessing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Then again, Egypt has always been the one place where causality comes to die. For some reason, Egyptians continue to go out and indulge their appetites for all the exotic flavours the world has to offer, and the food and beverage industry is obliging them.
Khalid Osman, COO of the company behind Baltazar and Yousra Darwish, Marketing Manager of the company behind Baltazar.
The options are abundant; on any given day, a Cairo urbanite is bound to cross paths with a cafe, a restaurant, or a bar. But, with this abundance comes the need to stand out, and what better way to stand out than putting together a unique menu? After all, isn’t food all it comes down to?
With black burgers and black lemonade, Baltazar has earned its reputation as the city’s go-to place for all that is eccentric and odd in the realm of nutrition. However, our fascination with the eatery goes beyond the food; it extends to the concept, the creative process behind every dish, and the refreshing authenticity of the cuisine.
The restaurant strives to exceed your expectations, but instead of pandering to your demands and bowing to your every wish, they raise your standards and make you question your past choices. “When we started working on Baltazar, looking at the market around us, you have a lot of successful international places. What do they offer at the end of the day? You get your pasta, your steak, your burger,” Chief Operating Officer of EFC, the company behind Baltazar, Khalid Osman tells us. “The idea was to do something that would make people go 'Ha, that's different!' Sometimes they look at the menu and hesitate; ‘I’m not so sure I want to try the black burger, how's it black? What does it taste like?’ So it was really about trying to bring something different to the market and to spice things up a bit. It was boring! There was nothing there.”Ask any entrepreneur what the biggest hurdle they face in Egypt is, and the keyword here is 'inconsistency'; that's just the way things are, particularly in the food service world. How many times have you had a dish so perfect at a restaurant only to be let down on your next visit? And would you consider going back? Osman doesn’t make any false promises. “You've been a consumer for most of your life; I’ve only been doing this business for two years - I’m nothing compared to you. So, yes, it’s very tricky to maintain things - very challenging especially with what’s going on with the economy and prices going up. Are we always going to try and look for alternatives? We will. Are we going to choose an alternative that will affect the taste of the product that I know my consumer knows? Never, but I cannot rule out human error,” he says.Flatbread, shrimp wrapped in ta3meya dough, mango and parsley juice, and cheese-filled meatballs are just a few of Baltazar’s creations, but food innovation can be quite a risky endeavor. “It is a trial and error process; out of every ten things we do, one clicks and we only need one, so that’s how it is,” he says. “One of my foreign chefs will come in and do something and leave it, and one of my Egyptian chefs will taste it and then go, ‘right I'll do this to it’ and adds his touch. I’ve done it myself; I would go into the kitchen with the chef and play!”
Baltazar is the result of the collective effort of all parties involved; from customers to busboys, everyone gets to contribute. “One of my staff suggested we put the beef and the chicken and mix them with pasta. We tried it and it was so good we put it on the menu!” Osman explains. Their famous Hot Chocolate Cake Nutella didn’t come with ice cream until one customer willed it into existence. “Someone put an ice cream scoop in it and shot it up; it went viral! The next morning, a customer comes in and asks for a Hot Chocolate Cake Nutella, so we bring it and he goes like ‘where's the ice cream?!’ and goes mental. He shows us the picture, so we go along with it. Now it comes with ice cream!”It may be eccentric, gothic and disruptive, but Baltazar is always going to be different, even when it's not. “Everyone does risottos and everyone does mushroom risottos, so why don’t you make a mushroom risotto that sets you apart?!” Osman concludes.
Follow Baltazar on Facebook and join the revolution or follow them on Instagram @baltazareg!