Meet Monem : Founder of Cairo Van, Egyptian Street Food

Talk to us about your background before Cairo Van..

I have always worked in hospitality- mainly front of house roles. Including for the Ivy Group. At family events I would always be the one who wanted to cook for everyone and do the entertaining. I love it!

The background in hospitality gave me an understanding of how to talk to people, and make connections with people from all different types of backgrounds. Meeting new people and interesting people always inspired me. I have been lucky enough to gain massive support from the connections I made in my time in hospitality.

When did you start Cairo Van?

We launched Cairo Van in June 2018 at Ditchling Village fair – my favourite day of the year other than Gay Pride! We sold out in two hours and did 300 covers! It was insane. Everybody was so impressed with what we had done and it was incredible to get such a warm reception from my home town.

It took me a year and a half from having the original idea to the actual launch of Cairo Van. It all started when I did all the catering for my nephews birthday party, it was then I realised that it was really time for me to invest in myself and set up on my own. I moved back down to Ditchling from London and spent all of my time saving money, researching and getting everything in place to set up on my own.

Is supporting local businesses important to you?

Definitely. All of our meat comes from our family farm in Ditchling- it is all free range. I often find myself running around the farm catching sheep with my nephew! Anything we don’t use from the meat is made into breakfast sausages on the family farm, so we really don’t waste anything! All of the beans and pulses that we make our Falafel with is all made in Britain. And all of our Halloumi now comes from a brand new British supplier- made in London using British milk. It has even won a Great Taste Award!

The ethos behind Cairo Van is traditional Egyptian food made with fine British Produce.

I think now more than ever, it is so important to consider sustainability and where you source your ingredients from. Our packaging is all bio degradable and recyclable also.

What has been the most challenging parts to running Cairo Van so far?

It is very difficult to work out how much you should be paying for events. Some markets and food festivals have a great return on investment and work out very well for us – others not so much. It is something we are constantly learning about.

Also learning about how to time manage your prep for events, it takes us ten hours to slow roast the lamb for our wraps, so this is very time consuming. Nearly everything we sell is made or prepared at home so this is something we have to consider before going to food festivals or markets.

Having said that, we have been so lucky in that we have had so much positive feedback as a startup company so it makes all of the small challenges worth while.

What do you see for the business looking forward?

I would really love to take on another van, so that we could cover more events. I wasn’t actually expecting to do as well as we have done so far, which is a great start! Next year we have weddings, festivals and parties already booked, so we are just taking every day as it comes at the moment!

How has your upbringing / Egyptian heritage played a part in Cairo Van?

I was lucky enough to grow up in a family of exceptional chefs. My lamb recipe is exactly how my dad has always cooked his lamb, the Basboosa recipe is a recipe of my Aunties that my sister makes for us as she loves to bake and the recipe for the Egyptian Falafel is like no falafel you will have ever tasted before!

Tell us about ‘Cairo Van comes to you’

I will come to your house, cook all the food- which is all served on big platters, pour your wine for you and set the tables. I even clear it away for you! It’s available for up to 10 people at the moment. We include all the favourites from the van and a few special extras.

For all enquiries please contact Monem via hello@cairovan.com or visit the website here www.cairovan.com

All the photos on this article are by Jay Jasper @jayjasper

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