Organic Foods and Café is leading a healthy-eating charge in Bahrain
Time Out Bahrain staff
Leading the way for healthy dining in Bahrain is Organic Foods & Café where they’ve just brought on a couple of new chefs. We speak to Head Chef Maher and Chef Mark to find out what they have in store for us foodies.
The Organic Foods & Café was born in Satwa, Dubai back in 2004 and has since spread across the UAE and over to Bahrain (and soon Qatar!). Founder Nils El Accad was born in Germany but raised in the UAE and his first introduction to whole, organic foods was when his mother first taught him about the importance of eating unprocessed, real products after she was diagnosed with cancer.
She died when he was just 21 years old. After that, in 1997, he fell unexplainably ill and after many doctors were unable to help, he turned to alternative medicine. Which also meant he began to explore the fascinating world of nutrition.
If there is anything that’s indisputable in this day and age, it’s the important of eating whole foods. While, for the most part, it can be difficult to do so in Bahrain with the rise in fast food restaurants and processed food stuffs, there are some eateries that are paving the way.
None more so than the Seef Mall-based Organic Foods & Café where they cater to celiac disease sufferers, vegans and all-round fussy eaters. We speak to brand new Head Chef Maher Abdou and baker and pastry chef Mark James Dickey to find out what they have in store for discerning diners on the island.
What were you doing before you took over these posts in Bahrain? Chef Mark: I trained as a chef under Armando Percuoco, a famous Italian chef who taught me traditional Italian cooking techniques and recipes. I left his kitchen to cater for celebrities on tour, which I did for one year. Life somehow brought me to Kuwait and my Middle Eastern journey began…
Chef Maher: I was born in Egypt where I grew up working in the hospitality business. I decided to become a chef early in my life, at 16 years old, and I was lucky to be one of the few international chefs to train in Paris. I completed my training and became an executive chef in Kuwait, Singapore, Thailand and Dubai before finally landing in Bahrain.
Chef Maher, as head chef what is your vision for the menu at Organic Foods & Café Bahrain? To create a fresh dining experience for our customers, incorporating local ingredients and flavours while still being located at the heart of the city. We want to refresh the dining experience at the Organic Foods and Café, bringing a healthy and playful atmosphere that people will enjoy coming to on a daily basis.
Chef Mark, how did you become a baker and pastry chef? I started to explore pastries as an executive chef in Kuwait. I suddenly found myself deep in the world of the Middle Eastern pastry chef. There was so much to learn that by the time I was done, I was more of a pastry chef then an executive one.
What is your personal favourite type of pastry? Chef Mark: My newest invention, Konar Danish Pastry with a pinch of organic cinnamon sugar. The core of this dish is this amazing new fruit I discovered at the Farmers’ Market in Budaiya which only grows in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
How do you cater to people with a range of intolerances and dietary limitations? Chef Maher: It isn’t always easy to adopt popular recipes for specific diets. You have to keep working on it to get it right. Free time in the kitchen and bakery is always spent making new recipes, adjusting current recipes and researching online. Managing the dietary restrictions of our customers properly is one of the many goals our kitchen aims for.
What are some of your most notable bakery items available in store now? Chef Mark: Our crispy bread, packed with super foods and grains, is our most popular item. It sits very well with the Bahraini palate and pairs perfectly with hummus. In general, our super food breads with quinoa and amaranth [are notable]. For desserts, our famous vegan chocolate cake with raspberry coulis has really become popular with the vegan community in Bahrain.
How do you plan on keeping the bakery fresh and innovative at Organic Foods & Café? Chef Mark: There is only one way to do it—hard work and dedication! Explore different flavours and textures, especially in local and organic products, to create unique combinations that can only be made in Bahrain. Open daily 9am-10pm. Seef Mall, Seef District (1333 3285).