Cleopatra’s Kitchen aims to bring a taste of the Middle East to the residents of the West Midlands. The street food business re-invents the time old perception of Middle Eastern food being the greasy kebab you’d get at the end of a night out. Instead, the team at Cleopatra’s Kitchen deliver an array of mouth-watering shawarma, flatbreads, falafel and dips more commonly found at the smoky street food markets in Egypt and surrounding areas.
Danny had no catering experience before taking over the business in March 2020, prior to the UK being placed into lockdown. “I’d always had a huge interest in food, with Middle Eastern food being one of my favourites. A close friend started the business back in 2019 and did an amazing job to get Cleopatra’s off the ground.
“I then bought the business in March 2020 and it gave me a chance to put my own stamp on it. Since the end of that lockdown – July 2020 – we haven’t stopped. Luckily, I have five amazing chefs (four from the Middle East) and now, 18 months later, we have six full time staff working across three sites!”
Taking over a business for the first time during a global pandemic could not have been easy, but the team have made the most of their first 12 months in business by taking part in kitchen takeovers, most recently at Taste Collective – a street food hub based in Solihull.
“Kitchen takeovers are a great way to build a following and get your name out there in a specific area for a longer period of time. We don’t just do a kitchen takeover to keep busy, we have areas that we have pinpointed to work in.”
Kitchen takeovers also present opportunities for visitors to enjoy a whole “experience” when visiting a premises such as Taste Collective. As well as changing street food traders being based on site, customers can also enjoy cinema nights, beer quizzes and other activities whilst tucked away from the elements in heated huts, giving them more than one reason to head down to the site and catch-up with friends. There’s a quirky selection of food and drink for even the most picky of palates.
“With the events sector, you are very much in and out after a weekend,” said Danny. “Whereas with kitchen takeovers, we are usually there for at least a month. They’re also especially good for the winter months when the weather isn’t great. Taste Collective gave us our first residency and have given us the platform to build a huge following in that area and for that, we are very thankful.”
“We are very blessed to have been able to trade at some of the best events in the country. We’ve got to take the opportunity to give a huge shoutout to Digbeth Dining Club also. They believed in us from day one and continue to put on amazing events across the region.”
Egyptian cuisine is not something ingrained in the minds of the national consciousness; with many Brits more familiar with the North African dishes hailing from Morroco and Lebanon. So, what would Danny recommend to customers unfamiliar with the cuisine as a starting point:
“Definitely start with the Chicken Shawarma; it consists of pieces of chicken thigh marinated in our spices which is then layered on top of each other before being slow cooked on a spit. Add our homemade garlic sauce on top and you’ll be hooked.”
It’s obviously been an intense first year for the Cleopatra’s crew and a massive learning curve, but they’re massively proud to be a part of the hospitality industry and are optimistic about the future.
“The best thing about working in hospitality is meeting regular and new customers, seeing the look on customers faces as they’re enjoying your food and the feeling when customers have travelled from afar for your food!”
“We are a very ambitious team and believe we have something really special. We don’t want to give too much away with regards to what’s next for Cleopatra’s Kitchen, so keep your eyes peeled.”
And what would be their advice for those just starting out in the industry?
“Be prepared to work harder than you’ve ever worked before. It’s a lifestyle. Amazing food will only go so far, you have to have a strong brand to go with it and vice versa. Good luck.”
Follow their journey: