Renowned French Chef Jordan Prot talks to Sanabel al-Najjar about his delicious fusion of French and Japanese cuisine that's taking over the new menu at the revamped Le Deck restaurant at Sofitel Cairo El Gezirah in Zamalek.
When we think of a fine dining experience, the image of a young tattooed French chef with a handlebar moustache preparing impressively artistic dishes of delicious Japanese and French cuisines is probably not the first to come to mind. Chef Jordan Prot (known as Chef Jordan), who has recently arrived to Cairo, carries on the culinary legacy of Chef Laurent Peugeot, the renowned Michelin Star chef who brought a fantastic blend of elements from Japanese and French cuisines to Egypt for the creative new culinary concept to be launched at the soon-to-reopen Le Deck restaurant in Sofitel Cairo El Gezirah hotel. While Chef Laurent is out there spreading his culinary genius to the world, Chef Jordan, who has trained under the former for several years, will be managing the menu for floating Nile-top restaurant. Of course, Chef Laurent will be dropping by every once in a while to make sure the magic is still being kept alive in the dishes he personally invented.
Le Deck promises a truly novel experience for those whose tastes buds are constantly longing to be gratifyingly bombarded with different food flavours and textures. Even though the Japanese cuisine – with its sake, noodles, udon, and simmered vegetables – might sound so far removed and almost irrelevant to the French baguette, fondue, and bourguignon, Chef Jordan will convince you otherwise. Determined to find out more about this unique food blasphemy, I sit down with Chef Jordan, facing the Nile and the deck itself, to talk about his experience and what to expect.Chef Jordan tells me that he, along with Le Deck Manager Antoine Bonfort, have been making arrangements for the revamping of the place over the past couple of weeks, including even choosing the plates and glasses for the restaurant. However, Bonfort has been in close contact with Chef Laurent since December about the concept of the hybrid cuisine.
I ask Chef Jordan whether it was difficult cooking such dishes in Cairo. “No, not at all," Chef Jordan replies. “I have great access here to a lot of produce, such as vegetables –which taste terrific here in Egypt – and fish, which is also a good and accessible item here. We prepare a lot of diverse dishes cooked through several different techniques, and because the Japanese cuisine is a big part of what we do, you’ll find that many of our dishes include soy and sake, for example, and we’re constantly trying to mix elements together.”
To my surprise, Chef Jordan says that it was not actually hard merging the Egyptian food culture with the French and the Japanese. “It is not hard at all. Just like we can merge French and Japanese cuisines, the same applies to Egyptian food, which can be merged with the items from the French kitchen just the same,” he tells me.
Chef Jordan then tells me about how he came across Chef Laurent and eventually trained under him. “I started working with Chef Laurent five years ago as an intern. That was after I travelled around and worked in France and the Mediterranean for about a year and a half," he recounts. "About a year ago, I was assigned the title of Sous Chef (person ranking directly below Head Chef) and, just in December, Chef Laurent told me about Egypt and asked me if I would like to come here and work with this new food concept at a new restaurant. I said yes.” Given the novelty of the menu for the revamped Le Deck, I ask the chef whether he thinks that Egyptians would be open to such a strange mixture of tastes that is so different from traditional Egyptian – or even generic – food. “I think that, even though this is a very new concept to Egypt and a completely different style in kitchen, curiosity and wanting to try something new will encourage people here to try this different experience,” Chef Jordan responds.
Bonfort comments that Le Deck targets Egyptians who like trying sophisticated and novel cuisines, as well as the expatriates living in Egypt; “you know, people who like going out for nighttime dinners with a friend or a wife – mostly Egyptian and expats, but also some of the guests here at Sofitel as well.” Bonfort then adds, “After all, all the magic is here,” he says, pointing to his tattooed arms.
Chef Jordan then invites us to the back of the kitchen where he prepares a quick, delicious dessert using strawberries, red pepper, chocolate, and – of course – some whipped cream on the sides. The dish looks even more alluring given its the gentle, artistic setting.
I thank the chef and leave with only one thing in mind: what kind of dishes am I going to be ordering once Le Deck reopens?
Photo shoot by @MO4Ntetwork's #MO4Productions.
Photography by Ahmed Najeeb.